College Preparation for Autistic High School Seniors

Published: Saturday, 25 April 2015 Written by Dawn Marcotte


Senior year is the culmination of 12 years of hard work and study.

Graduation is close,

but there is still work to be done to finish strong and prepare for attending college.

According to Peterson's the to-do list for the year includes:

  • ·        Visiting schools
  • ·        Finalizing college choices
  • ·        Keeping up grades
  • ·        Participating in extracurricular activities
  • ·        Taking more standardized tests
  • ·        Completing a lot of applications
  • ·        Finding and applying to scholarships
  • ·        Completing FAFSA for financial aid
  • ·        Getting acceptance letters from at least 1 college
  • ·        Comparing financial aid packages
  • ·        Completing enrollment in final choice

As with other years, this list doesn't seem to address the needs of autistic students.  These tasks are often complex and require a lot of executive functioning skills and self-advocacy skills that our students may not have yet.

Once again I have broken these tasks down into those that parents will be more likely to do and those the student needs to focus on.

Fall - Parents

  • ·        Create a process to track deadlines. There will be deadlines for standardized test (AP, CLEP) deadlines for applying to schools and deadlines for applying to scholarships.
  • ·        Proofread all applications - it is a good idea to work together with your student to complete these applications, but you will want to proofread them to ensure all information is accurate, spelled correctly etc.  Many colleges now have online forms rather than traditional paper forms.
  • ·        Attend at least 1 financial aid seminar, either through the school or a financial aid specialist - this can be a complex process and understanding what to do before you begin can make it much easier.
  • ·        Continue the search for scholarships and grants
  • ·        Help student submit applications to the chosen schools

 Fall - Student

  • ·        Finalize your college list. Make sure you have visited your top 3 colleges at least once. Visit the top schools again, particularly if the last visit was in the spring - seeing the school during a different time of the academic year is a good idea.
  • ·        Continue to practice study skills and keep grades up
  • ·        Continue to participate in extracurricular activities
  • ·        Provide a stamped, addressed envelope to adults who have agreed to write a recommendation letter for you. This allows the teachers to send the letter directly to the college you are applying at.

Winter - Parent

  • ·        Complete FAFSA online after January 1 - earlier is better.  You will get a Student Aid Report within 3 weeks. Review it for any changes and submit it to the FAFSA processor.
  • ·        Follow up with the school to ensure all forms needed by colleges have been sent - this is something your student should do, but may require some help from you.
  • ·        Monitor submissions for scholarships and grants to ensure your student meets deadlines

Winter - Student

  • ·        Continue to practice study skills and maintain grades - schools will review final grades.
  • ·        Prepare for CLEP or AP tests to get college credit
  • ·        Submit paperwork for scholarships and grants by deadlines

Spring - Parent

  • ·        Compare financial aid packages from colleges that send acceptance letters - schools vary widely in their packages
  • ·        Continue monitoring paperwork for scholarships and grants
  • ·        Contact the support services department of the final choice and determine what information they need.

 Spring - Student

  • ·        Watch for notifications from colleges - in general they should arrive by March or April
  • ·        Maintain grades until graduation
  • ·        Take CLEP or AP tests for college credit

Spring - Together

  • ·        Make a final decision on what college to attend. This is a big decision and everyone should be comfortable with the final choice. Schools should be notified by May 1.
  • ·        Complete the enrollment paperwork and submit

Summer - Parent

  • ·        Continue working on life skills
  • ·        Determine transportation options and help student practice - this could mean driving to the school until they know the route, taking the bus or walking around campus to learn where the various classes are held.
  • ·        Review possible summer programs at the school that your student could participate in - any time spent getting to know the campus and the staff will help with the transition.

Summer - Student

  • ·        Continue to practice life skills to be as prepared as possible
  • ·        Visit the school frequently or choose a summer program to participate in at the school
  • ·        Review student organizations and choose 2 that are interesting - contact them for more information
  • ·        Get a job or volunteer

Summer - Together

  • ·        Make a plan for what to do in case of homesickness
  • ·        Make a plan for what to do when classes are difficult
  • ·        Make a plan for what to do to deal with stress
  • ·        Make a plan for asking for help from teachers/staff/ support services

It can be helpful to write these plans out, print them and have a hard copy to keep - it may never be needed, but just having it can be comforting to the student.

The summer before college can be stressful for everyone involved as there are big changes coming and many people on the autism spectrum don't deal well with changes. You know your student better than anyone and know how they will react to this stress. Be supportive of their needs and help them take small steps forward. The road to college may be bumpy or smooth, but it is a road worth taking.

Is your student ready for college? Request our college readiness guide today to help them prepare.

Hits: 887

Contact Us

How many eyes has a typical person?