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Downers Grove, IL 60515


From Piles to Smiles® organizing and productivity service provides personalized, non-judgmental, professional coaching and hands-on organizing assistance that can help you claim control of your hectic personal and business life.

College Planning for Students with Learning Differences


Organizing and productivity ideas to help you experience the simplicity, harmony and freedom of being organized and in control.

College Planning for Students with Learning Differences

Sue Becker

I have the privilege of helping a wide variety of people learn how to be more organized productive. However, I’m particularly honored (and trained) to work with students and adults with ADHD – I value their wit and wisdom and appreciate how hard they work to overcome the organizing hurdles that go along with having ADHD. I’ve asked the educational consultants at JJB Educational Consulting to offer tips to help students with learning differences, including those with ADHD, plan for entering college. These suggestions can be helpful for anyone contemplating entering college, with or without a learning difference.

Freshman year of high school:  Although it may seem too soon, start creating a college-entry strategy now. This will help make sure the student is choosing the right courses and getting the correct learning support to assure success.

  • Students are expected to take classes that will challenge but not overwhelm them.  Many students, depending on their ability, should consider taking four core academic courses freshman year, rather than five, to ensure the transition to high school goes smoothly.
  • Make sure appropriate supports are in place such as tutors, therapists or executive functioning coaches. Encourage your student to get involved in extracurricular activitiesthey don’t need to do specific activities for college, but rather, find something they enjoy!

Sophomore year:  Students should continue to choose appropriate courses and participate in extracurricular activities. It is a good time to investigate psycho-educational testing to make sure it will be current within three years both for college and for accessing accommodations for standardized testing (ACT/SAT).

 Junior year:  The college search should be in full swing.

  • In the fall, make sure your school applies for accommodations for standardized testing.
  • Plan when your student will take the test – here’s where you’ll find dates for the ACT and SAT.
  • Since many high school programs don’t tutor in specific subject areas that might be problematic for your special student, consider hiring a private tutor.
  •  Start generating a list of colleges to visit. Think about size, location, disability support services, majors and extracurricular activities. Good source materials are the Fiske Guide to the Colleges, Colleges Niche, Unigo, and College Supports for Learning Differences. College Supports provides one-on-one interviews with disability support programs so you can see what they offer.
  •  Plan college visits – this cannot be overstated. You can look at a school on paper but have a completely different sense of it while on campus.

 Senior year: Your student is in the home stretch of college planning.

  • The summer before senior year is a great time to start college essays. The essay is the hardest part of the application process, and it’s great to get it out of the way before school starts. Find subjects other than the student’s disabilities to discuss – their disabilities are NOT their most interesting personal attribute!
  • Start college applications as soon as they’re available online, as it is much better to get applications in EARLY!
  • Talk to professionals about what type of support they think your student will need.
  •  When making decisions about what college to attend, consider four areas: academics, social milieu, learning support and extracurricular activities. By this point you should have an idea of how heavily to weigh each of these aspects. Students have a good sense of where they will thrive – trust their gut!  

Best wishes for success!

Guest columnist JJB Educational Consulting specializes in college placements for students with learning differences. They can be reached at 847.940.8090 or at or