Guest Expert

College Readiness and College Success

It’s tempting to ignore the looming shadow that is college. It’s the monster under the bed, the squirrel in the attic – we leave it alone and hope it goes away. But as usual, denial isn’t the answer. How DO we prepare our teens for college readiness and college success?

Guest Expert Theresa Maitland thinks it’s best to confront the boogeyman head-on. In this interview, she explains that preparation is key to college readiness, which lays the groundwork for college success. Especially poignant for parents of complex kids, she offers concrete suggestions of how best to prepare your teens!

According to Maitland, preparing early on is the best way to help your kids through the transition from high school to college. It’s an intense and exciting time, and it’s best if you can go through it together as a family. “There’s so much that we can do as families and as institutions to make this transition smoother for this population, which is at greater risk for not having success.”

4 Keys for College Readiness


According to Maitland, this is about “families … shifting the controls of their lives to [the kids].” It’s the best way to help your kids without helping too much. “No one would ever expect a pilot to be able to fly a plane without going through a period of co-piloting. In all areas of life…”

The coach-approach is another great way to find a balance. “The middle ground is collaborating and coaching and being the facilitator… helping [your kids] have the power to make a choice, helping them think through which one they’re going to take.”

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As a co-pilot, we can also help our kids develop stronger self-advocacy skills. Maitland recommends: “Practicing reading your own IEP, and learning to ask for help is a readiness skill that can mitigate challenging” situations. You can even do this by simply planning for college. Maitland recommends “helping young people understand how different college is going to be, and motivating THEM to want to have the baton and want to co-pilot.”


All of these suggestions are especially important when it comes to complex kids. Maitland continues, “But when we have people with Executive Functioning limitations, they typically spiral downward if we let go.” If a child has ADHD, anxiety, or learning difficulties, acknowledge how difficult school work can be. Maitland says: “Early on, the earlier the better, [help] kids with these differences understand them and accept them and be able to talk about them, and maybe even value them and see the gifts in them.”


Ultimately, Maitland says it’s important to talk to your kids – figure out what they want out of life and who they want to be. It’s important to stay involved and help with the planning, but remember that this is your child’s future. “As long as the young person has choice, we are honoring and empowering them. When we take that away, we have the potential to thwart their growth and self-determination.”

Listen to the full explanation of Maitland’s co-piloting advice in this truly informative and inspiring interview about how to prepare teens for college readiness and college success – especially when they have complex issues like ADHD and LD.

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