Getting Into College: A Complete Guide To The Application & Admissions Process

Ellen Meyers, M.S., M.Ed.; Member, national TAA Education Committee and Candida B. Korman

It’s time to think about college!

This step-by-step guide for students with Tourette Syndrome addresses the many questions that you — and your parents — will ask as you go through the process of applying to colleges. From standardized test preparation to creating your own criteria for finding the right school, this detailed brochure has been created by TSA to help college bound students make good choices.  Here are 10 steps to success!

Step One: College Admissions Tests

Most colleges require that you take either the SAT or the ACT admissions tests. Your high school guidance counselor will be able to tell you which you should take, but usually colleges on the east and west coasts use the SATs while the midwest and southern regions require the ACT.

Preparing for these standardized tests is critical. Both the SAT and ACT tests challenge your time management skills, so students who are not prepared for the tests are at a disadvantage.

Both testing companies offer free practice tests and reasonably-priced, personalized, preparation programs on their websites. There are also many books (available at bookstores and online) with multiple practice tests — including recent tests — detailed descriptions of each section of the test, targeted practice questions for each question type, a review of math concepts tested on the exam and test-taking strategies.

Many students benefit from test prep classes. Some high schools offer them, and there are private test prep classes in most communities. Taking practice tests is often helpful for students with TS as it allows them to experience the test environment before the big day. The strategies and tips offered by courses may help boost your score. One-on-one tutoring is also a good option because it can be tailored to your strengths and weaknesses. For example, a strong math student may sail through the math section, but will benefit from extra instruction in the reading or writing portions of the SATs.

 

Resources:


Step Two: Accommodations During College Admissions Tests

Just because you have an IEP or 504 plan that includes specific accommodations during tests at school, that does NOT mean that you will be automatically offered the same accommodations during the SAT or ACT tests.

You must apply for the specific accommodations that you need. Although the College Board recommends that you begin the application process seven weeks prior to the test, it is best to start even earlier. A four to six month lead time will allow for the extra time you may need in the event that the College Board requests additional information that slows the approval process down.

Once the College Board or ACT has OK’d your use of accommodations, you will be assigned a specific ID number. Unless your need for accommodations changes during the period of time you are taking college admissions tests, you will be able to use this number and need to go through the application process only once.

You (or your parents) may request the accommodations, but it is strongly recommended that you go through the SSD (Services for Students with Disabilities) coordinator in your high school. This is usually the guidance counselor, special education director/team chair or teacher.

Although the needs of students with TS vary widely and some may not need any accommodations during testing, the accommodations students with TS are likely to request include: additional testing time (both the College Board and ACT generally allow 50% additional time); a separate, smaller testing site; frequent breaks during the test time; a computer; a scribe or someone to record answers on the test sheet.

Remember that accommodations are tailored to the individual and depend on the testing company’s criteria. You can find extensive information on the accommodations that are available on the websites of the two testing companies. You are urged to review these with your parents and begin the applications process early — in the spring of your sophomore year if you plan to take the PSAT test. If you are enrolled in an Advanced Placement class and plan to take the exam prior to your junior year of school, the application should be completed by the beginning of the second semester of that school year.

Occasionally, the College Board or the ACT organization will deny the accommodations that a student has requested. Don’t panic. This may occur because the testing company does not feel it has enough information to make a decision on the requested accommodations. Take the letter you receive to the SSD coordinator at your school and ask for assistance with appealing the decision. The SSD coordinator will know how to do this and what additional information may be necessary. This is one of the reasons it is so important to work through the accommodation process with your school’s SSD coordinator.

If you find that you are unable to secure the accommodations that you feel you need, contact TAA which will attempt to help you.Please be aware, however, that the final decision regarding accommodations rests with the testing company.


Step Three: Test Day Tips

There are many things that you can do to give yourself an ‘edge’ on test day. Most are the common sense advice that will work for all test takers.

The night before the test is a key time. That’s the best time to gather your test-day necessities. Make sure you have all of the following, and put them where you will find them in the morning — even if you’re nervous the morning of the test.

Pack List of Test Day Necessities:

  • Your Test Day Admission Ticket Your Photo ID
  • An Approved Calculator
  • Extra Batteries for the Calculator
  • #2 Pencils (pens and mechanical pencils are not allowed)
  • You may also want to pack some snacks to eat during test breaks.
  • If you are taking the test at a site other than your school, be sure to have the directions and/or program your GPS with the directions.

Take Care of Yourself

  • The night before the test, get a good night’s sleep. Well-rested test takers do better. In the morning, eat a good breakfast — a growling stomach may interfere with your concentration.
  • Arrive at the test center 30 minutes before the test time. This will give you a little breathing room and a chance to visit the bathroom before the test starts. The SAT exams start at 8:15 and the test centers open at 7:45. If you are unfamiliar with the site location, build in a little extra travel time.

During the Test

  • Once you have the test in your hands, be sure to follow the directions. Listen carefully to the test administrator — whether or not you are taking the test in a standard testing classroom or in a room set aside for students getting accommodations.
  • Neatness counts! Be careful with the bubble sheet, and make sure that the bubble with your answer corresponds correctly with the question you are answering. Be sure to erase any smudges or stray pencil marks.

Answer ALL the Questions!

  • The best strategy is to answer all the questions, but you may want to skip particularly difficult questions and return to them after you’ve completed the other questions in that section. This is why keeping your bubble sheet accurate is critical. Answering all the questions helps, because on both the SAT and ACT, correct answers add to your score and incorrect answers do not cause points to be taken off.
  • When you return to the questions you skipped the first time around, do your best. If you are still unsure, make an educated guess by eliminating as many choices as you can. Be aware that on the SAT test you cannot return to a section, once the test has moved on to the next section.

Keep Track of Time

  • Whether you are taking the test in a standard testing setting or have an accommodation that allows for extra time, the clock is still a factor in these tests. Be aware of the time passing and use your best judgment to assess when it is time for you to go back and fill in the difficult questions you passed over the first time around.
  • If you have received extended time accommodations, be sure to know exactly what time you have and use it well. Practice tests are your chance to learn how time — or the lack of it — impacts on your test-taking ability.

Communicate with the Proctor

  • College admissions test day is not a good opportunity for a long tic-talk or a personal awareness campaign, but it’s important that you let the proctor know you have TS so he or she will not be surprised by your tics. This applies to whether or not you are taking the test in a standard setting or in a room set aside for accommodations.

Step Four: Finding the Right College for You

Matching the college to the student can be a big endeavor for parents as well as the student. This is definitely something that should be discussed as a family, as there are many factors to be considered. Small colleges may offer you more personal interactions with faculty, but large universities are more likely to have wider experience with students who have TS and related disorders. Other factors to be considered include: academic programs, setting, social atmosphere, geography, cost, and your future plans.

Think seriously, and realistically, about your needs and ambitions. Ambition can be a very good thing, but it must be tempered with a clear idea of your academic and social needs. The goal is to match you to the right school for you — this may not be the ‘right’ school for your best friend, your cousin or your father — but it is the right school for YOU.

Size: University versus College…. Big Colleges and Small

This is the big and small of higher education. Universities often (but not always) have more experience with special needs students, while small campus colleges offer a more intimate ‘everyone knows your name’ experience. For some students with TS, small is best, for others it simply makes them feel ‘singled out.’ This is a personal call.

Colleges and universities range in size from a few hundred students to the size of a small city with thousands of students. The difference in size has a direct impact on your social and academic experience. Many students wind up transferring after a year or two in a ‘too small’ or ‘too large’ environment. If you have particular academic or athletic interests that will only be met at a large university, you may find your answer right there. This is a basic question. Think about it. Talk to your parents and teachers, too. Also remember that wherever you go, you will very likely find a group of people with whom you are comfortable.

Geography/Location

Location, location, location… it is always an important factor. Do you want to commute from home? Do you want to be close enough to visit on a whim but just far enough away to feel ‘away’? Is a daylong drive the right distance from home? TS may complicate this question, as you may want to stay relatively near your doctors. You may even want to talk to your health care providers and see if they have concerns about you being too far away.

Geography also has an impact on the environment at the school. If you are an avid skier you may want to find a school where you can ski nearby. If you grew up in Southern California, you may want to try living in a part of the country with four distinct seasons.

Talk to your parents about geography/location early in the search for the right school as they may have very clear ideas and/or restrictions. Many parents set a geographical boundary — ‘only schools east of the Mississippi’ or ‘you must be within a three- hour drive.’ It’s best to get these restrictions on the table early in your research process.

Setting: Rural, Urban, Suburban

Another factor that contributes to the social atmosphere of a school, is its setting. Do you like the idea of a self-contained, suburban campus or do you envision yourself in the heart of a big city where the campus and the outside community mingle? What about a college in a rural setting, far away from big cities, but relatively near a small town? This is a question of taste and comfort. Everyone will have different ideas about what is best. Ask yourself what you think will be the most comfortable environment, the most interesting, the most conducive to study. There is a great deal to think about.

Type of College

There are many criteria for describing the ‘type’ of college you might want to attend: private, public, single-sex, co-ed, religious affiliation, liberal arts, focused on specific academic areas….

You may opt for a two-year college because of…

  • Finances: Many two-year schools are community colleges with relatively low tuition costs. Many students lower the overall cost of attending college by starting at a two-year community college and then transferring course credits to a traditional four-year school.
  • Not Quite Ready: Some students are not quite ready for the challenge of a four-year college. Perhaps, you did not do as well in high school as you would have liked, and your four-year college choices are very limited. Getting an associate’s degree at a two-year school and then transferring will allow you to catch up academically with your peers. Or, your medical team has determined that you would be better off staying at home and becoming accustomed to college by starting in this generally smaller environment.
  • Entry into a Career: A two-year associate’s degree is the entry point into many careers such as nursing, computer technology, paralegal work, etc. You may want to begin your career after the two-year program, and then go on to a four-year college.
  • Technical Schools are Another Option: Technical schools offer a wide variety of programs that generally take less than two years and offer a certificate upon completion. This is an especially good option for students who prefer hands-on learning and want to move into the workforce with a stronger background than a high school diploma can provide.

Different Schools for Different Students:

There are many fine schools in ALL of these categories. Public versus private may have a big impact on your tuition costs. This may, in the end, be a key issue in your decision. Going to a public school as an out-of-state student may be expensive, so it’s wise to look at the public schools in your home state.

Although there are fewer single-sex schools than there were in the past, a single-sex educational environment may be right for you. Schools with religious affiliations may also offer you the right atmosphere. You should also note that many colleges with religious affiliations accept students who are not of that particular faith. So if a school has a program you find particularly interesting, you don’t have to eliminate it on the basis of religion.

Obviously, if you are interested in studying Latin you must find a school that teaches Latin. Check the specialties and the majors offered early in your research as you may wind up eliminating particular schools because they don’t offer the major you are most likely to choose.

As most freshman aren’t entirely sure about their major — or change it several times in the first two years — focus on colleges that offer the kind of course work you think you’ll want. Liberal arts schools offer the most variety, but if you are certain you want to major in arts or business, there are many fine colleges that offer a focused plan of study from the freshman year on.

The Learning Center:

If you are likely to need the services of a learning center, investigate the quality of the college center early in your research. Remember, you will no longer have an IEP to direct your studies. And, as a college student, you are responsible for seeking out any academic assistance you may need. Find out how many hours the college center is open. Find out how well it is staffed. Although most colleges advertise that they have a learning center on campus, the services offered by the centers vary widely. Be sure you’ll find the help you’ll need when you navigate the academic challenges of college.

Social Environment:

You’ve no doubt seen movies about the ‘Greek system’ (fraternities and sororities) that dominate the social life at some colleges. The importance of sororities and fraternities varies from the center of social life to non-existence, with a wide middle ground of colleges where the ‘Greeks’ are accepted, but do not drive the social life. Whether you are intrigued, indifferent or turned off by the idea of these social clubs, it’s smart to find out where the ‘Greeks’ fit into the social life of a school and apply to schools where you will find like-minded students.

Some school social calendars revolve around sports. If this is of interest to you — great. If not, there are plenty of schools where you will find little or no focus on college athletics. There are also schools where theater, music, politics, religion, science, etc. are at the center of the school’s social life. It’s important to read descriptions of the social scene at all the colleges you are considering, as this will have a direct impact on your comfort on campus.

Finances:

College is very expensive. But it would be a mistake to eliminate a college as an option solely due to its cost. Many schools, especially private colleges, offer good financial aid packages. You will not know this until after you have been admitted, so if you are particularly drawn to a school, it may be worth your while to apply and find out what they can offer you if you are accepted.

 

Resources:

Your school Guidance Counselor is often a good resource. You should also look at the college search guidebooks available at the school or public library, and at online and local bookstores. Online college engines may also give you insights into the colleges you are considering.


Step Five : College Application Reality Checks

Now that you’ve given some serious thought to the kind of college you’d like to attend, checked in with your medical team (or therapist) about geography, and had a general discussion with your family about their ideas, it’s time to do a reality check and figure out where you will send your applications. You and your parents may have to shed some cherished Ivy- covered dreams or thoughts about exotic settings, because it’s time to focus on schools that are most appropriate for YOU.

Your test results, grades, extracurricular activities, outside school experiences (jobs, volunteer work, travel) are the criteria the school will look at when assessing you as a candidate. You may have the desire to attend schools that are unlikely to accept you. It’s OK to aspire and send applications, but applying only to schools unlikely to accept you is a losing proposition.

Check in with your school guidance counselor and put together a realistic list of schools that includes: schools that are a‘stretch’ (not a daydream but a school with requirements a little outside an obvious match); schools that are very likely to take you, called ‘safety schools’ and schools that match your academic achievements.

Unlike Goldilocks — who found exactly the right match in the baby bear’s bed — you may be accepted by one of your ‘stretch’ schools and get wait listed by a ‘safety’ school. The colleges are looking at thousands of other candidates and there are all sorts of criteria (geographic variety, children of alumni, extraordinary extracurricular achievements, etc.) that are in consideration.

Make a list that offers you good options, including schools that are accurately matched to your academic achievements, interests, test scores, etc. Listen to your guidance counselor, but the ultimate decision on where you apply is up to you. Your participation in extracurricular activities is important, but a long list of volunteer work, sports and arts may not trump low grades or poor test scores at the admissions office of a very competitive school. Be realistic.

There are lots of schools out there. There’s no single ‘perfect match’ but there are many, many close to perfect-for-you schools, so the reality that your dream school is just a dream (or your Dad’s dream for you, or your Mom’s dream for you) isn’t all that bad.

As you know, the symptoms and impact of Tourette Syndrome vary widely. Some students who have a very difficult time in high school experience diminished symptoms in college. Others see no change in their symptoms. You need to think very carefully about your symptoms, how they affect you and what kind of impact they may have on you during college. You may want to talk to your medical team or therapist to get some expert input. Your parents may have concerns, too.

Just remember, you may start at one college and finish your degree at another. A year or two close to home, is not a bad strategy if there’s some concern about how you’ll do at a school far from home and your support system.

Resources:

Your school Guidance Counselor is often a good resource. You should also look at the college search guidebooks available at the school or public library, and at online and local bookstores. Online search engines may also give you insights into the colleges you are considering.

 

 

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Step Six: Research Time!

Once you have your initial list of schools, it’s time to refine it with research. This is a critical stage of the process. Don’t skip it. You may find that you’re doing an overhaul on the list after you’ve spent some time with college guidebooks, at college fairs, with college representatives and visiting colleges (Step Eight).

College Guidebooks

College guidebooks are available in your high school guidance office, but you may want to purchase one at a bookstore or online. The schools are listed in alphabetical order by state

— this allows you to find schools using the first criteria — geographical location — and then follow with a careful reading of the school’s description.

College Fairs

College fairs offer you an opportunity to learn more about a variety of schools and speak to school representatives. Some high schools arrange field trips for juniors to go as a group. You may also want to go with your parents to a college fair in the evening. Talk to your school guidance counselor about local college fairs and sign up for the mailing lists of schools you are considering.

School Websites

Colleges and universities have websites with up- to-date information about the school. (College guidebooks are updated yearly.) You will find the most accurate admissions information such as the average test scores and GPA, and an updated freshman class profile on the college website. You can often take a video tour of the college on the website which will give you a feel for the campus. If there is a place on the website to sign in, do it so the school will know that you are interested.

College Representatives

College representatives often visit high schools. Check with your guidance office to learn if and when college reps are coming to your school. Sign up to meet one if the school might be of interest to you. Each high school has its own rules regarding these visits that usually take place in the fall. Seniors are often given priority over juniors, so be sure to find out how your school is managing these visits so you can stay in the loop.

These college rep visits offer you an opportunity to ask questions not answered on the school’s website. You may want to talk to someone about the ‘feel’ of the campus. Is it really a ‘party school’? What is the town/city near the school like? Is the social life centered on the Greek scene? Do students live off- campus? You may want to take this opportunity to find out more about the school’s Learning Center and if the atmosphere on campus is characterized by tolerance and openness.

College visits (covered in Step Eight) are the best way to take the temperature of a campus, but talking to reps one-on-one and at your school and college fairs, can be very helpful.

Resources:

There are also college guidebooks designed specifically for students with learning disabilities or other special needs. These describe the services available at each college as well as any specific policies related to students with learning issues at each college listed in the book. These books also provide traditional information related to the colleges they list. If you cannot find this type of college guidebook at a local bookstore, try one of the large, online bookstores


Step Seven: TS and Your College Essay

Your college applications contain a great deal of information about you, but nothing is more important than your essay. It’s your opportunity to tell the admissions committee something they can’t learn from your test scores, grades, etc. You’ll want to be original, sincere and detailed. Avoid generalizations, and take the time to tell an interesting story. Focus on things that are of particular interest to you, and share something that reflects you.

Perhaps the most important thing you need to do before you write an application essay is to read the essay prompt. Read it carefully, and be sure that you understand what is being asked of you. Writing a generic essay and tweaking it to fit different prompts (for different colleges) is tempting, but you are unlikely to produce a single essay that addresses all the individual schools’ prompts and the resulting essays may fall flat.

In addition, some colleges ask for shorter essays on a variety of topics. These might include history, literature, politics or current events. Again, read the prompts and pay attention to the instructions.

You may want to write practice essays the summer before you start applying to schools. This is a good way to work out the kind of language you’ll use and to explore topics. There are sources on the Internet that give you sample prompts.

As a student with Tourette Syndrome, you have an additional question to ponder — do you write about TS or not. TS should not define you as a person, but it is a factor in your life. Do not feel like you must avoid the topic, but it need not be the focus of your essay, either. Think about the impact that TS has on you and judge how much to include about it. The main objective is to be original and sincere.

If you chose to discuss TS in depth in your essay, be sure to put it into the context of your life as a whole. One student with TS, who has a serious interest in photography, described his life as a photo being developed. He included two paragraphs on TS in the two-page long essay. It was his way of integrating his TS experience into the complete portrait that colleges need to see.

Be sure to proofread your essays. You may want to get an English teacher or another skilled and experienced writer to look over your essays, but there is no real advantage to be had from passing your essays out to everyone you know for their input. Too many opinions are like too many cooks — you’ll just become confused and the essay will likely lose an accurate reflection of YOUR voice.

Spelling and grammar are important. Be sure to check things over and remember that spelling programs on computers may confuse THERE with THEIR and YOUR and YOU’RE, etc. Human proofreaders can pick up where the computer programs leave off.

Resources:

To find practice-essay prompts, type “writing college essay” into an Internet search engine, and you will find articles written by admissions officers with useful tips. The College Board website has an entire section devoted to writing this important essay.


Step Eight: Visiting Colleges and College Admissions Interviews

College websites with beautiful campus photographs only give you so much information; the purpose of a college visit is to determine if the school is a good match for you. Once you’ve done your research and prepared a list of possible schools, visits are the next step. How many schools you should visit is a family decision as it is based on a variety of factors including available time and resources. Try to visit the schools on the top of your list.

Many college visits begin with an organized tour conducted by a current student working for the admissions office. The tour gives prospective students and their parents a general sense of the college. Check with the college and find out if you need to sign up in advance of your visit. It’s recommended that you take the college tour when the school is in session. This will enable you to see a little of the campus lifestyle. Is the campus lively? Is it quiet? How do the students dress? Can you picture yourself in that environment?

Your guide will show you highlights of the college. This often includes examples of classrooms, science labs, athletic facilities and other important campus buildings. The tour will most likely include a visit to a dorm room. This is an ‘ideal room’ and it’s doubtful that your room will be exactly like it after a couple of weeks of school!

As you walk around the campus, check out the flyers posted on bulletin boards to find out what activities, plays, concerts, lectures, and other events are being promoted. Are they of interest to you? Be sure to ask the tour guide what he/she likes most and least about the school. You may be able to strike up a conversation that answers your questions about the school.

You may also have an opportunity to attend an admissions office information session. This is a good time to get answers to your specific questions. Remember that there are no general right or wrong answers to these questions, but there are answers that are more right (or wrong) for YOU. Here are a few of the questions you may want to ask.

Housing:

  • Is campus housing guaranteed? Is it guaranteed for all four years?
  • Are students permitted to live off-campus? If so, when?
  • How many roommates will you have in a dorm room?
  • How are roommates selected?
  • Are the dorms co-ed? If so, by room or by floor? Are the bathrooms co-ed?
  • What percentage of students commute?
  • Does the campus empty out on weekends?
  • If it’s a commuter school, are there events and activities on the weekends?

Classes:

  • What is the student/faculty ratio?
  • What is the average class size?
  • Are the classes taught by full-time faculty, graduate students or a combination of both?
  • Are classes predominantly large lectures or smaller classes?
  • Are the freshman/introductory classes more likely to be lecture classes?
  • Will you be able to enroll in your first choice of classes? (This is sometimes difficult for freshman on crowded campuses.)

Student Health Services:

As a student with Tourette Syndrome, it is important to visit the Student Health Services center to determine if the college will have the appropriate level of services should you need them. This is especially important if your symptoms are severe.

The Learning Center:

If you are a student who will need the resources of the Learning Center, be sure to make this part of your college visit. Ask questions about the staff, hours of operation, and the types of services that are available.

Plan a weekend or overnight visit to the colleges you are most interested in attending. This will give you a good sense of campus life. If you have a particular major in mind, try to attend a class or speak with a professor. The more information you have, the more informed your eventual decision will be.

Document your college visits by taking notes and pictures of the schools you visit so you will be better able to reflect on your visits. Once your formal college tour has ended, walk around the campus on your own. If you are comfortable, talk to students and ask how they like the school. Get a feel for the school. Observe the current students. Eat in the dining room, if possible. How do the students appear? Happy? Stressed? Gloomy? Cheerful? What’s the campus vibe? Is it a party school? Do people seem serious? Is the library filled? Are there quiet places to study? Are the students friendly?

If you have chosen to visit a college without participating in a formal college tour, stop into the Admissions Office and make them aware that you have been there to visit. It’s important that they know you are seriously interested in their school.

The College Interview

The college interview is an important opportunity for the college to learn about you. If you prepare for the interview, you will help them see you in a positive light. The interview may take place at the college with an admissions officer; but college alumni conduct many of these interviews. These are graduates of the school who have been trained to do interviews. They are often dedicated members of alumni associations and represent the interests of the alma mater. So the interview may take place in an office or home near you, if the campus is far away. Occasionally, colleges conduct group interviews. The suggestions below apply to all interviews — solo, group, with admissions officers and with alumni representatives.

Preparing for the interview

Review your research about the school and prepare a few questions. This will help the interviewer learn about you — your interests, your career aspirations and the way you communicate. You may want to jot the questions down, especially if you are nervous about the interview.

  • Dress appropriately. You are entitled to your own personal style, but there’s a great deal to be said about ‘dressing for the occasion.’ The college interview is NOT the time for T-shirts and jeans.
  • Language and Manners. During interviews of all kinds, your manners and use of language are important. It’s unlikely that the interviewer is concerned with your choice of major as many college students change majors at least once, but how you express your interest in chemistry (history, classics, computer science, anthropology, mathematics, etc.) is of serious importance.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Answer questions with specific answers. ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ aren’t enough. The interviewer will want to hear why you are interested in their school, why studying psychology is important to you, or how much you’re enjoying working on your high school newspaper. Talk about yourself in a positive light, express your interests and ask questions that reflect your desire to learn more about that particular college.
  • Manners are very important, and they start at the very beginning of the interview. When you enter the room, shake the interviewer’s hand, look him/her in the eye and say, “It’s nice to meet you Mr./Ms. So-and-So” This will help you remember the interviewer’s name and give this important person a good impression of you from the first seconds. After the interview, send a personal ‘thank you’ note. This demonstrates that you are both serious about attending the school and that you are the kind of person they would like to include in the freshman class.
  • Tourette Syndrome and the Interview. By the time you’ve reached the interview stage, you will have decided whether or not TS should be a part of your college admissions process. If you have obvious or significant tics, you need to explain TS to the interviewer as soon as the interview begins since it is well known that stressful situations can exacerbate your tic symptoms. This needs to be a basic “tic talk” in which you explain vocal and motor tics and your specific tics. This is especially important if you have coprolalia. The interviewer will likely have some knowledge of TS or will have seen in your interview packet that you have Tourette Syndrome.

Interview Courtesy Tips.  

  • Turn your phone OFF or leave it outside the room with your parents or a friend. Vibrate is not ‘off.’
  • Do not chew gum.
  • Do not use a lot of perfume or other scented grooming product.
  • Do not use any inappropriate language
  • Arrive on time

Step Nine: Sending Out Your Applications

Once you have met with your high school guidance counselor, talked with your parents and possibly your medical team, considered all the important criteria including the impact that your TS might have on your college experience, and drawn up the list of colleges, it is time to actually apply to the schools.  This process is time consuming. Be prepared to fit it into your busy first semester senior year schedule. With academics, athletics, afterschool jobs, etc., this means MAKING time for applications.

Your Resume: One Helpful Short Cut is a Resume/Biography.

Sit down and create your resume or biography, listing all your school activities (including the year(s) you participated in any given activity); any volunteer activities at school, in your community or at any religious organization; your participation in Scouting; work you may have done educating peers about TS; any part-time or summer jobs; and any other activities you’ll want to include in a college application. This will help you make sure to include all the important things about you that a college will want to learn about you. You may want to give copies to anyone who is writing your letters of recommendation, too.

What is Included in an Application?

A college application has several components, including transcripts, letters of recommendation, college essays, etc. Many colleges now allow you to complete your application online with the option of submitting it by mail.

Approximately 400 colleges subscribe to the “Common Application.” You may be able to complete one application online for multiple schools — but this depends on your personal list of schools. For more information about the Common Application, go to: www.commonapp.org.

Letters of Recommendation

Most colleges require 1 or 2 letters of recommendation as part of the application. Your high school guidance counselor, or a learning center teacher, who knows your academic record and the challenges you’ve faced with TS, should write one of these. The other letter should come from a core academic teacher from one of your most successful classes. This teacher should help illuminate your academic skills to a college admissions office.

Some schools will have a form that must be completed by the person writing your recommendation letter. If so, do not forget to give that form to the teacher and counselor.

Occasionally, a student will send a third letter. If you opt to send one, it should be from a school administrator, a special subject teacher (i.e. music, art), a coach or another adult with whom you have worked closely on non-school activities. The input from this third letter should enhance your college application with an additional point of view on you.

Remember to send a thank you note to anyone who has written you a letter of recommendation — not an email.

High School Transcript

Your high school transcript included in your college applications must be the official transcript from your school with your grades and a signature of a representative of your school. In general, these are sent directly from your high school to the college. Check with your high guidance office for the procedure at your school.

The College Essay

Your college essay (discussed in Step 7) is a very important component in the application. Don’t forget to mail it along with the application!

 

Application Fee

Colleges often charge an application fee, which generally ranges from $35 – $60. Be sure to include a check to cover the fee with your application and put your name in the ‘memo’ section of the check.

Test Scores

When you take the SATs or ACTs, you can designate four schools to receive your test results. If you apply to more schools, you may also go online at a later point and select additional schools to receive the scores from the testing organizations. There is a fee for this service.

Different Kinds of Admissions

There are several different forms of admissions used by colleges. They include early decision, early admission, rolling admissions and regular admissions. You have choices in some kinds of admissions and not on others.

  • Early Decision. Early decision is for the student who has decided on the ONE school that he/she wants to attend. If you opt for early decision, this must be your top choice school. By applying for an early decision, you are committing yourself to attending that school if you are accepted. Colleges consider early decision to be a binding process. If the school accepts you under an early decision admission, you’ll hear back from the school by mid-December. If they accept you — you are in. When you apply for an early decision, you are agreeing NOT to apply to other colleges for an early decision, and you are agreeing to attend that college if accepted. If you are not accepted as an early decision candidate, your application goes into the regular admission pool, so you may yet be accepted to your top choice school.
  • Early Action.  Early action is designed for students who are interested in a couple of schools and want to know by mid-December if they have been accepted. Early action does not include a binding obligation to attend the school if you are accepted. You may choose to say yes immediately, or wait until April — when the regular admissions have been announced. If you are not accepted as an early action candidate, your application goes into the regular admission pool.
  • Rolling Admissions. Some schools offer rolling admissions. This means they will notify applicants within two or three weeks of receiving the application. This is a fast YES or NO and can be helpful in your decision- making process.
  • Regular Admissions. The majority of students apply to college in the fall and receive admissions decisions between April 1- 15. (Most schools have applications deadlines before February 15 for the fall semester.)

 

Additional Thoughts on the Application Process

  • Plan Ahead and Get Things Done Early. Regardless of the method of applying that you choose, do not wait for the actual deadline to submit your paperwork. Remember that college admissions offices receive hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper and many of them come at or near the deadline. To help ensure that all of your paperwork arrives at the admission office, you need to plan on completing your application at least a month before the deadline. This is especially important if you have executive function/organizational issues related to your TS.
  • Your Name. It is important to use the same name on ALL your paperwork. This sounds like common sense, but many people have nicknames or middle names that they use sometimes. Consistency is critical. Use the same name on everything. The name on your high school transcript is your best bet. Use it on every part of the application. This may mean telling the people writing your letters of recommendation to use the official transcript name, even if they usually use your nickname.
  • Organization is Key. Make copies of all the pieces of all your applications. Keep them in folders — one for each college. This will help you if anything gets lost. Keep a log of the entire process, noting when you have submitted requests for transcripts and test scores to be sent out to schools, when you have received letters of recommendation and when you’ve sent out applications. This will help ensure that your applications include all the necessary pieces and that you will meet your deadlines

Step Ten: Making Your Final Decisions Dealing with Rejections and Celebrating Acceptances

Preparing Your Strategy for Starting College

The research, essay writing, interviews, and the rest of the work is over, but the hard part has just begun — waiting!

When you hear back from colleges depends on the type(s) of admissions procedures you’ve chosen (discussed in Step 9). Keep in mind that very few students get good news from every school on their list, and that being denied admission to a school is NOT a failure on your part. There are a myriad of reasons that a school might pass on you. Most are completely out of your control and many applicants are equally qualified. Don’t take these rejections personally.

Once you have received your acceptance letters, it’s time to make a big decision. If you have not visited all of the colleges and it’s possible, you should try to visit the schools you are considering. A visit is a good way to get the feel of the campus (See Step 8). Choosing a college is an important decision and you should talk to your parents and, in some cases, with your medical team.

Here is a reminder of the factors you’ll want to consider in your decision:

  • Size – do you want to be at a college with 500-1,500 students or 20,000-30,000 people or somewhere in between?
  • Geography – do you want to be able to ski or go to the beach? Do you hate the cold or want to try living in four different seasons?
  • Location – do you want to be within an hour or two of home by car or five hours by plane?
  • Setting – do you want to be in a city, near a city or out in the country?
  • Type of college – Private? Public? Religious affiliation? Single sex? Co-ed? Liberal arts? Academically focused?
  • The Learning Center – does the college have a well-designed, well-staffed, accessible learning center?
  • Social environment – are you interested in a college with a strong “Greek system?” College athletics? Politics? Social action?
  • Finances – can you afford to attend a particular school? Will you receive a strong financial aid package?

Regardless of your final decision, you should prepare a strategy for starting college. Using your favorite search engine on the Internet, enter “starting college” and a number of sites will pop up. Combing through these, you will be able to create your own “To Do” list of things that need to be completed before your first day of school.  Some important tasks include:

  • Monitor your mail and email for important information from the college. This includes information about the college orientation dates, your roommate, financial aid, registration, housing and dining.
  • Make sure your final high school transcript is sent to the college you will attend.
  • Confirm your housing assignment and contact your roommate(s). Once you have established a relationship with your roommate, tell him/her about your TS so there are no surprises on move- in day. Characters with TS have appeared on television and there have been various shows that have talked about TS, but don’t make the assumption that your roommate really understands TS. Let him/her know about your symptoms and what to expect while living with you.
  • Attend Orientation! This is a great way to get to know the college as a new “insider.” You will begin to learn your way around and learn the language of college life. This is important whether you are a residential or day student.
  • Register for classes. Registration may occur during orientation, by mail or when you first arrive on campus. As a freshman, you may have a list of required classes. If you already have selected a major, be aware that you may not have any classes in your major in the first semester or two of college. Often, registration preferences are given by seniority and freshmen are on the bottom of that list. So be flexible and have a list of courses that interest you in case you don’t get your first choice.
  • If you are going away to school, there are many things that you will need to purchase, pack up and move. The Internet is a good source for check off lists of these items and your school may offer a shopping list of items you’ll need for their particular dorms, e.g. a specific size of sheets. If you are flying to school, you may want to ship some of these items to school ahead of time. Another option is to fly out a few days early with a parent or other important adult in your life to help you make these purchases and get ready for school.

Things to remember once school starts:

  • If you have significant TS symptoms, talk to your RA (resident assistant) in the dorm to make that person aware of your TS. When you attend class for the first time, speak with the professor or teacher and let him/her know that you have TS and what they can expect in terms of your symptoms. As you have no doubt learned, people are much more accepting of TS once they know about it.
  • Go to class. This may sound strange but with all of the new and exciting things to do on your campus, it’s sometimes tempting to skip classes — especially early morning classes after a night out having fun. Many freshmen get distracted by the extracurricular and social activities in college, and start habitually missing classes. Remember that your primary goal is to get a fine education. This is accomplished by going to classes regularly.
  • Ask for assistance. If you are struggling with an academic issue or a class, speak with the professor or teacher of the class. Often, they have office hours that they will announce during class or post at their office. Just because you are in college does not mean that you can’t get help. Go to the Learning Center even if you have not previously registered with them and ask for help there.
  • Take responsibility for your education; it’s a critical part of being in college. In high school you may have had an IEP or a 504, which obligated your school to help you. College is much more like the ‘real world’ where you are in charge. Seek out help if you need it, but remember that colleges expect you to be an adult and accept the consequences of not studying, missing classes or simply taking on too many credits at once. Professors and teaching assistants are resources, but they may not be as available as your high school instructors.
  • Determine a time management system. In some ways, college is easier than high school. You are not under the relentless pressure of having the same classes each day with homework for them every night. But it can be easy to get out of the habit of doing your work on a daily basis since it is not due the next day. Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it. If executive function/organization is a problem for you, ask for assistance from the Learning Center.
  • Don’t forget to call home but don’t call home too often. That sounds contradictory, but it isn’t. Your family will certainly want to know how you are doing, so make a plan to call them on some regular basis. But, having that cell phone with you all the time makes it really easy to call or text to ask for advice too frequently. A major part of the college experience, whether as a day or dorm student, is to learn how to problem- solve issues as they arise. Try to work things out on your own first, and then if you can’t resolve the issue, call and ask for advice. (If you are meeting resistance or having difficulty because of your TS symptoms, this is an example of when you should definitely call home to ask for advice.)

Enjoy your college experience!!! It goes by really fast!!!