Checklist: A College Planning Timeline for Students with Visual Impairments
Not every teenager goes on to attend college. If your child can and wants to pursue academic training after high school, a community college or a four-year university are options to explore. This checklist will help you and your child keep track of the steps that will need to be taken as he prepares—starting in his freshman year of high school—to be ready to apply to the school of his choice in his senior year.
If your child has been working with an educational team, you and he should meet with the teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) and other team members to begin discussing what he thinks he’d like to do after high school. At this point, the discussion should focus on four key points:
- Your son’s academic and other interests
- When and how to begin transition planning
- What a transition Individualized Education Program (IEP) ought to include for him
- How to begin working with a counselor from your state department of rehabilitation
Your child should also meet with his school counselor to discuss his academic goals and map a program of study. It’s essential that his courses meet general college requirements.
Encourage him to explore extracurricular activities, particularly community service and leadership opportunities, which colleges value as indications of maturity and commitment.
Be sure he schedules a follow-up meeting with his counselor and educational team members early in the term to review his freshman year progress and plan his sophomore program.
As part of planning his sophomore program, he should talk with his teacher of students with visual impairments about arranging for whatever standardized tests and test-taking accommodations he’ll need in the coming school year. If he’s unable to take standardized tests in the standard pencil-and-paper format, he’ll have to have documentation demonstrating his disability on file with his school before the end of the spring term in order to be eligible for accommodations in the following term. His school counselor, working with his TVI, can make the necessary arrangements; there is a fair amount of paperwork involved, so it’s wise to start the process as early as possible.
Encourage your child to take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) in October to practice for taking other tests and to qualify for National Merit scholarship programs (his sophomore score won’t count toward qualifying for a National Merit Scholarship but will give him the benefit of already being familiar with the test when he takes it in his junior year; his score report will also help him identify any academic areas that need improvement).
He should continue to take rigorous college prep courses, work to improve his academic performance, read as widely as possible, and maintain his involvement in extracurricular activities.
Take your son on a tour of a local college—just to give him a sense of what a college campus is like.
It would be a good idea for him to take SAT Subject Tests in June in subjects he’s mastered and doesn’t plan to continue at a higher level. These are tests designed to assess a student’s understanding of the information covered in high school courses such as World History, English, Biology, and other academic courses. Some colleges require one or several SAT Subject Test scores, either for admission or placement, so it’s best to take the test as soon as he’s completed the course, while the information is still fresh in his mind.
Be sure your child registers to take the PSAT/MNSQT in October (junior year score is used to qualify for National Merit Scholarships).
Review his PSAT score report carefully with your son to find out if there are any academic areas he needs to improve.
>Help your son begin the college search process. The Internet can be an invaluable tool in providing detailed information about colleges and ways to narrow the search based on personal priorities and preferences.
Review your son’s junior year progress and be sure he schedules a meeting with his counselor and other educational team members to discuss his senior year program. June is the time for him to take SAT Subject Tests.
Consider encouraging your son to enroll in a summer program on campus to get a sense of what college life is like or to apply for an internship to explore possible career options.
Summer Between Junior and Senior Years
If possible, visit colleges that your son is interested in. Take a virtual tour via the Internet if your family can’t get there in person.
Have your son contact admissions departments to request applications, course catalogs, and to schedule interviews in the fall. Most of this can be done by e-mail.
Help your son develop a comparative checklist of all the colleges he’s considering. A reasonable number would be anywhere from four to eight colleges. The checklist should include:
- Admission application and financial aid application deadlines
- Notification dates
- Tests required
- Number and type of essay questions
- Any other requirements
You may want to remind your son to request recommendation letters from his teachers and others well in advance of the due date. Recommend that he re-take SAT and/or ACT Tests a second time if he thinks he can improve his scores and talk to his counselor about the advisability of retaking the tests.
Be sure your son completes and asks his school to submit his application forms and supporting materials to colleges as early as possible.
Encourage him to maintain or improve his academic performance. Colleges look carefully at senior year grades and choice of courses.
After you and your son have reviewed colleges’ acceptance letters, be sure he responds promptly to advise admissions offices whether or not he will enroll.
For more information see College Bound: A Guide for Students with Visual Impairments by Ellen Trief and Raquel Feeney.