Educational Therapy for College Students

Transitioning to College

College is exhilarating on many levels, personally and academically. But unexpected academic challenges can arise. This is particularly true for students with learning differences. Like other transitions – elementary to middle school and then to high school – a student is presented with a new environment with raised demands for academic standards and a different learning structure. Navigating the initial ‘bumps in the road’ often happens successfully. Sometimes this goes astray, which leads to unexpected levels of lowered success, or to the dreaded need to withdraw from classes.

Overwhelming – Too Hard

These are the word I hear most often from clients. Overwhelmed by the amount of reading, the fact pace, the amount of work, the preparation for tests. Academics in college, when classes become stressful, is experienced as too much and too fast. This can feel like trying to pour an ocean of knowledge into an overwhelmed brain.

Document with Ten Strategies for Successful Transition to College


Educational Therapy Services can be thought of as comprising a spectrum of interrelated pieces. A service plan is developed that might focus on one or all of the services.

Analyzing and Solving Problems

  • Review history for current challenges, discuss experiences to analyze what worked well and what did not work well.
  • Review history from previous learning to add to the picture of strengths and weaknesses.
  • Work towards a focused list of challenges to be addressed along with paths to try out solutions.

Example: Student reporting difficulties with understanding lectures. Exploration questions: content too unfamiliar, presentation not well organized, difficult to listen and compose notes at same time, what should be in useful notes.

Developing Strategies and Skills

  • Examine quality of work, corrective feedback from instructors, and interactions with peers to assess skill deficits.
  • Explore differences between short-term work and long-term retention and learning; are assignments having higher scores than exams or vice-versa–why?
  • Explore strengths and weaknesses with both retention and expression of concepts and complex organization of information.

Example: Student reporting difficulties with starting major writing assignments. Exploration questions: able to identify expression of concepts versus expression of information and examples in reading, understand difference between deductive (from thesis to parts) reasoning versus inductive reasoning (working from parts and recognizing patterns and concepts). Practice using lots of note cards and physically manipulating them into patterns based on organizing concepts before starting to write.


  • Schedule regular sessions to practice and implement new strategies.
  • Engage in Socratic dialogue to model and practice self-evaluation and change strategies.

Example: Student reported difficulty with overwhelm with assignments during the weekend and starting each week attending class with unsatisfactory work completion. Scheduled Friday morning sessions to review progress and assignments and planned out hour by hour plan for the weekend with a commitment to make compromises as necessary on depth of work.

Building Support System

  • Explore academic support options: tutoring, instructor office hours, connect with classmates for study groups, online resources.
  • Explore personal support options: counseling and health services, recreational and social activities.

Example: Student reported difficulty with deciding to approach instructor with concerns over in class presentation. Discussed areas of concern with wanting to have more notes, reviewed accommodations plan and course requirements to discern what would meet the instructor’s objective, role played meeting.

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