CLECollege Living Experience

The pros and cons of beginning college virtually for students with learning challenges

Guest contributor Janet Price is the National Director of Admissions and Outreach at College Living Experience. She has 10 years of previous experience as an educational advocate and has co-authored two books, Take Control of Asperger’s Syndrome, winner of the 2010 Legacy Book Award, and Take Control of Dyslexia, as well as numerous articles. Janet has been a guest lecturer for graduate programs at Towson University and American University and frequently presents at national conferences. 

By now we have run out of superlatives to express the unprecedented sense of sadness and loss experienced by our Class of 2020 high school seniors. In addition to navigating the fear of a pandemic and disruption of life at every level, our young adults have had to do without the milestones that typically mark their transition to college. No graduation. No prom only cheap custom writing.

None of the typical rituals of closure marking the end of their secondary school experience.

For students with special needs, transitions can be challenging under the best of circumstances. So, is it a good idea to continue with plans to attend college if that college is going to be all virtual this fall? There are pros, there are cons, and most importantly, there are options!

First, the pros. There are a lot of good reasons not to put the future on hold and to continue with post-secondary plans.

  • Maintaining forward momentum. Beginning college classes, even virtually, feels like a natural progression forward. Waiting until campus life returns to what it was pre-COVID-19 means that the next step toward independence and adulthood is indefinitely on hold.

  • Maintaining routines and good study habits. Once a student, especially a student who has challenges with executive functioning, gets out of the routine of studying and following a schedule, it can be very hard to re-establish good study habits.

  • Learning about college expectations. Exposure to the rigors of college, even virtually, provides an opportunity for practice so that the student will be more prepared when life on campus does resume.

Of course, there are cons as well. Many of these concerns are the same types of challenges that we all experienced with distance learning over the last semester.

  • Motivation. If my high school senior was not motivated to tune into his Zoom classes or complete assignments, how do I know that they will be motivated to do their college classes online?

  • Family harmony. Many families experienced significant tension trying to balance distance learning for their kids and working from home. How much support will your college freshman need to stay on track? Can you use the same strategies to hold a young adult accountable for homework that you did when they were in high school? Should you?

  • Accommodations. How will the college provide classroom accommodations in a virtual model? Will this be sufficient?

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