College Readiness

What is College Readiness Anyway?

The term college readiness often tops Google trends just as rising high school seniors contemplate their next step. Most of us understand the general concept of preparedness for post-secondary education, but what does college readiness really mean?

In the academic world, college readiness is largely measured by coursework, GPA, ACT and SAT scores, but beyond the numbers, a college-ready student must have the knowledge, life skills, work habits, maturity, and independence necessary to succeed at school and in life after college.

For new students—particularly diverse learners—we can break college readiness down into four main areas: academics, life skills, social integration, and executive function.


A student’s ability to advocate for themselves academically is essential. Advocacy not only takes the form of speaking up when help is needed but can include being honest about where a student wants to go to college or expressing their interests related to a possible major.

Life Skills

Must-have skills for the college-bound include the basics like waking up on time for class and figuring out how to get there. Given that few students are ever far from their phone, the phone is a great tool for tackling such challenges. Programming alarms, reminders, and daily tasks can help keep students on track. Students can also use the navigation tools on their phones to find their classes, clubs on campus, their dorms, and so much more.   

Social Integration

Getting connected in college can be difficult for any incoming first-year student, but the more that high school students can experience new and potentially uncomfortable situations, the better off they will be. College involves being uncomfortable socially, putting yourself out there, trying new things, and meeting new people. A focus on joining clubs and sports, attending overnight camps, participating in novel activities, and traveling can all help ease the transition.  

Executive Function

Executive functioning skills are important to success in life but are critical for thriving in college. Self-awareness, working memory, emotional and motivational regulation (how a student manages their own learning motivation), planning, and problem solving are key. In real time this might be a student’s ability to understand how much time it will actually take them to get up, get dressed, and be on time and prepared for their first class of the day. Working with students in these areas as early as possible helps them create systems and strategies that will keep them on track. By breaking down large tasks into smaller chunks, calendaring, and increasing distress tolerance, students can be better prepared for the college experience. 

According to Focus Collegiate founder, Grant Leibersberger, “College readiness translates to capacity for independence on some level. That capacity has several factors including executive function, but let’s not ignore the concept of self-discipline. More and more, we see young people who think they are ready because they have been well supported—over supported in many cases. They have a false sense of readiness, or rather, an untested sense of how well they are prepared to make it in college. Our students are all bright and capable academically. They can and want to do the work, but they may not have the organizational capacity or self-discipline to get it done.”

Our College Life Coordinator, Kate Durham, suggests that “Students who are excited to learn and can be flexible with change show they are ready for college. When students can set small goals and create motivation for themselves, their first semester is often much easier. A student who can have an open mind and is interested in meeting people who come from different backgrounds will have an easier time adjusting socially.”

Rachel Dayanim, our Learning Specialist, says that “Taking the initiative for self-care is an important indicator of college readiness. Can the student do their own laundry, can they fill their own prescriptions independently, can they wake up on their own, can they make an appointment by telehealth portal or phone? Students are so habituated to texting that the seemingly simple activity of making a phone call—even if it’s only to get information on a bus schedule—can cause anxiety. Can the student cook any time of food? (Ramen counts!)”

Certainly, college readiness is unique to the individual and there are many college-readiness resources available. One of our favorites is From High School to College: Steps to Success for Students with Disabilities by Elizabeth C. Hamblet. This guide presents critical strategies and practices for cultivating the self-advocacy skills needed for academic autonomy and independent living.  

Photo by Leon on Unsplash

Our program is available in person in the greater Boston area and Virtually across the country!

Focus Collegiate provides innovative hands-on coaching for college students with learning differences, on campus and Virtually across the country.

College-bound with questions?