College Readiness: What Successful Students Do

by | Apr 19, 2015 | By The Grade | 2 comments

Thank you for joining me on for this 10-part series on Preparing Your High School Student With Dyslexia for College Success. To read the whole series from the beginning, click here.  Today we’ll look at the specific skills needed to be ready for college by looking at what other successful students do.

College Readiness What Successful Students Do

The types of skills needed to be successful in college can seem overwhelming, especially if you have dyslexia. If college is something that your child is serious about pursuing, developing these skills can be a part of your high school curriculum. Whether your student is homeschooled or attends a private or public school, many of these skills can be taught and practiced right from home!

As with many other subjects, dyslexics learn better with explicit instruction and lots of practice. This will help your student find the most efficient strategies for learning; the methods that are best-suited to his or her learning style.

Academic Skills Needed for College

College-level Reading

College students can be expected to read as many as 200 pages per week. For many dyslexics, including my own dyslexic kids, this can seem like a death sentence to college success. Remember, reading 200 pages is in addition to class time, social time, study time, and some semblance of sleep time. Be sure to read the next post in this series, Technology Helps. There are many tools available to help students get that reading done and understand it as well. Read this post on Preparing Your Dyslexic Student for College Level Reading for more tips on practicing college-level reading skills.


Students should have developed a system for note-taking in which they are familiar. If you have not taught this yet, read this list of Note-taking Resources.

Essays and the 10-page Research Paper

Students should have experience and confidence in implementing steps for writing a 10-page paper with more than two sources. If you are homeschooling, teaching college-level writing skills can be difficult to do. I highly recommend an online writing course called Fortuigence: Essay Rock Star. For my complete review of the Essay Rock Star Program, click here. Taking a composition class through a homeschool group or co-op can provide excellent opportunities for practice in writing. Whatever you choose, find a way for your students to practice, practice, and practice their writing skills.

Students should have developed a system for preparing for tests and exams.

Students should be able to comprehend and summarize college-level reading material.

Despite myths that dyslexic learners lack intelligence, most have average to above-average intelligence. Comprehension is not the problem – comprehending by reading is the problem. Many dyslexics learn better (retain more information) when the information is heard rather than seen. This is really a key to educational success on all levels. While dyslexics should be encouraged to comprehend the written word, it should not be the only way or considered to be inherently better than learning by hearing.

Ben Foss, author of The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning, calls this ear reading as opposed to eye reading. If the desired result is understanding, what difference does it make if the student learned the information by seeing or hearing?

There are many technology tools to help with this. Students should have a few well-chosen technology tools that they are familiar with before heading off to college! Check out Learning Ally for access to 1000s of audio books including textbooks.

Self-Understanding or Metacognition

This self-understanding is often referred to as metacognition. Once your dyslexic student enters the college campus, they are responsible for their education. No one is going to call mom if an assignment is missing or if it is being done poorly. Helping dyslexic students to understand their dyslexia and to be able to converse easily about it with professors and other campus personnel is a key to their success.

Metacognition skills your student should have are:

  • Being able to define and describe their learning style and diagnosis (if they have one).
  • Have a good understanding of their educational test results. They can meet with the tester or tutor to better understand this.
  • Know their academic strengths and weaknesses.
  • Know which academic supports they need to be successful.

Many colleges offer support at varying levels (we’ll talk more about that on Day 6 when I will talk more about the Types of College Support Programs). This self-understanding will help when it comes to choosing the type of college and major area of study. Once your child hits the college campus he or she will be responsible for his or her own education and being able to understand themselves, how they learn best and what accommodations they need is a key to their success.


Because college students are adults, they cannot be compelled to use services or accommodations – neither will they likely be offered. Dyslexic students need to be able to know what they need and be able to advocate (ask for and find help) for themselves.

This means that your student must:

  • begin to understand his or her legal rights
  • know when and how to ask for help
  • be able to schedule their own appointments with doctors, advisors, and counselors
  • investigate and utilize available resources

Read this post for more information on Teaching Students the Vital Skill of Self-Advocacy.

Again, many colleges have resources for students with learning differences. Help them to find these resources and get plugged in.

Organizational Skills

This is often referred to as Executive Function by researchers. Dyslexics tend to be more right-brained and big-picture-oriented. This is an excellent skill for designing and engineering but not so helpful when you are trying to find your notes or syllabus or even your entire notebook! Dyslexics need to be taught some key organizational skills:

  • Develop a system for keeping track of materials such as projects, books, and papers.
  • Know how to read and follow a syllabus and work with due dates.
  • Utilize a calendar – Google calendar is an excellent tool that can be synched with a smartphone to your computer.
  • Develop a system for scheduling and managing time.
  • Be able to prioritize study time over social time.
  • Have a method for coping with boring tasks like breaking big projects down into chunks or steps.
  • Use technology effectively.

Read this post to learn some Simple Strategies for Teaching Kids Time Management.

The Importance of Motivation and Confidence on College Success

It has been shown that the key determiner of college success is not necessarily academic ability, but rather determination and grit.

Does your child have an academic subject that he or she finds interesting?

Do they know what they want to get out of their college experience?

Are they excited about college?

Can they imagine their lives in 10 years? Do thy have a vision for their future and what role college plays in that?

It is important for any college student, much less the dyslexic ones, to be able to clearly visualize their success. If they are motivated to complete college, they will be less likely to give up or skip classes and exams.

Read more about how to foster motivation here.

Be Encouraged

The lists in this post are not intended to limit your child’s potential. They are posted here to show you as parents what to be working on to prepare your kids with dyslexia for college success. With the right motivation and skills, all dyslexic students can achieve college success.

Do you have a dyslexic student with college on the horizon? How are you helping to prepare them?


  1. Natalia

    I already love this 10 day series, eventhougt I have little ones( older is 8 yrs) I love all the information that you present in this post. If you can for a future post would you give us ideas on how to help a dyslexic child on their organizational skills. !

    • marianne

      Hi Natalia. I will work on that!


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