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How can Students with Learning Disabilities Succeed in College? (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Predictors of Success in College

Most college admissions officers will tell you that predicting how well a particular student will do in college is nearly impossible. Some who have excelled in high school have not been able to do the same in college. Some who barely scraped by in high school suddenly find their niche in college. College and university officials have developed a relatively uniform set of criteria based on predictive studies involving large numbers of applicants. These criteria, such as high school grade-point average (GPA) and SAT scores, are often used because they are the best predictors available, but they are far from perfect.

Selecting which students with learning disabilities are likely to succeed in college is even riskier. We do not yet have a well-established research base on which to make these kinds of predictions with much accuracy, and using traditional criteria is problematic. Students with learning disabilities may not "test well" on standardized tests such as the SAT, even though they are entitled to accommodations, and their GPAs may be difficult to interpret because the courses and accommodations they received may vary considerably, depending on the high schools they attended.

The little research that has been done on predicting college success for students with learning disabilities suggests that admissions officers should look at factors pertaining to performance in high school rather than at admissions tests such as the SAT or the ACT. One team of researchers found that, although far from perfect, such things as high school GPA and number of mainstream English courses completed with a grade of C or better were better predictors than standardized test scores (Vogel & Adelman, 1992). Some indicators such as

strong grade point averages in college preparatory courses, well-developed reading and mathematical skills, above average intelligence, and extracurricular involvement in high school correlate highly with success in college. Indeed, college admissions counselors, often working with support services coordinators, tend to look at these factors when determining whether to accept a student with a learning disability. (Shapiro & Rich, 1999, p. 128)

Demands placed on students differ from high school to college, but colleges require a great deal more student independence than secondary school. For example, there is considerably less classroom instruction in college, the implication being that students will spend more time outside of class reading and studying on their own. Many students have problems adjusting to the decreased structure in college. Students with learning disabilities may have an even more difficult time because they are prone to have problems in independence and their high school programs may have been even more structured than those of most students (Brinckerhoff et al., 1992). These observations have led many college admissions officers to point to motivation and the ability to work independently as important attributes to consider in selecting students with learning disabilities (Spillane, McGuire, & Norlander, 1992). Shannon wonders what it will be like in college:

My parents really want me to go to college, and I guess I do, too, but I think it will be really hard for me. I've heard that sometimes your grade is based on only two tests! What if I don't do well on the first one? How am I going to make myself study ahead of time? I have a tendency to wait until the last minute.

-Shannon

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