Summer Programs for High School Students with Learning Differences

Summer Programs for High School Students with Learning Differences

Pre-College Summer Opportunities for Students with Learning Differences.

Introduction – Summer Program Opportunities Designed for Students with Learning Differences

There has been an increasing number of summer pre-college programs for high school students in locations across the country. These structured summer options can help high school students explore topics of interest, learn about post-secondary educational options, and prepare for the transition that occurs after high school comes to a conclusion.

Summer programs for high school students with learning disabilitiesSome of the summer programs have been designed for students with learning differences and autism. These programs can provide helpful experiences that enable students to develop their academic skills, gain insight into their learning strengths, explore post-secondary education options, connect with peers, gain experience on a college campus, and/or consider potential career opportunities.


A Summer Program on a College Campus

Summer college programs for high school students with learning differencesSummer programs for high school students are often run or sponsored by colleges and held on campuses. These programs, often called pre-college programs, can be particularly valuable for college-bound students with learning differences. Pre-college programs can provide students with the chance to preview academics and life in a college environment.

Pre-college programs can also help students develop advocacy skills and begin to consider the types of accommodations that would be beneficial for them in a post-secondary environment. Ultimately, pre-college programs can provide students with a chance to extend their learning beyond the traditional school year, spend time on a college campus, and preview a post-secondary educational option.


Preparing for the Transition Out of High School

High school students with learning differences working on computers at a summer programAs high school progresses it is can be valuable for students to take steps to prepare for the transition to post-secondary life. College-bound students are encouraged to engage in transition activities such as visiting colleges, learning about the support services that are available on different college campuses, and meeting with a school counselor to discuss the college admission process. It is also important for a student to speak with a high school counselor and/or a teacher about the types of accommodations and supports that would be most significant to have a successful experience in a post-secondary educational setting. Additionally, it can be valuable for students to contact the offices of support services at colleges of interest in order to inquire about the supports and resources that are available on the campus, the process that is used to become eligible for these services, and any recommendations that are offered for prospective students.

While summer pre-college programs do not substitute for the aforementioned transition activities, they can help students gain a preview of post-secondary education. Whether students participate in a pre-college program or they opt to pursue other activities during the summer, it is important for them to consider the college or post-secondary options that would best align with their goals and interests.

Summer program for high school students with learning differencesThis article is intended to provide information about some of the summer pre-college program options that have been designed for students with learning differences and autism. It is important to note that the list of programs in this article is not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive.

As a note, students and/or parents can contact a university’s pre-college office or admission office directly to obtain more information about a particular program.


Sample of Summer Pre-College Programs Designed for Students with Learning Differences


Pennsylvania College of Technology Summer Pre-College Program

PCT offers a summer pre-college program designed for high school students on the autism spectrum. The two-day program provides students with the chance to visit a college in a comfortable manner, learn about academic and career opportunities, and preview a post-secondary setting.

During the program, students have the chance to see the campus, visit academic buildings, and learn about resources. There are structured activities that enable participants to meet current undergraduate students as well as faculty and staff members at the college.

Structured workshop sessions are held during the pre-college program. These focus on topics such as career exploration, the role of support in a post-secondary educational environment, self-advocacy skills, transitioning to college, and more. Parents can also attend sessions in order to obtain useful information.

There are structured activities that occur throughout the program and students can stay overnight on the campus during the two-day pre-college program.

Participants: The pre-college program is intended for high school students who will be going into their sophomore, junior, or senior year. 

Learn more: PCT Summer Pre-College Program

Keane University Pre-College Summer Program: Steps to Your Future

The summer pre-college program at Keane is designed for students and young adults on the autism spectrum who would like to gain experience in a college setting. There are structured activities throughout the program that enable students to learn about life on a college campus and become more familiar with Keane University.

During the program, participants have the opportunity to learn and practice skills that can be helpful in college. In particular, there is a focus on skills related to developing more independence in a college or post-secondary educational environment.

The program is coordinated by the Keane Occupational Therapy Community Cares Clinic. Students have the option of staying on the campus during the program in supervised university housing.

As a note, Keane University has partnered with College Steps to support college students with learning differences and autism. More information can be found by visiting College Steps.

Participants: Young adults and high school students who are on the autism spectrum or who have related special needs.

Learn more: Keane Steps to Your Future Summer Program


PAL College Search East at Curry College

Curry College summer program for high school students with learning disabilitiesThe PAL College Search East Summer Program was developed to help students prepare for and begin the college search process, which includes finding schools that align with their goals, interests, and needs. Through the program, students can gain a better understanding of their learning strengths and needs, become more equipped to make the transition from high school to post-secondary education, develop strategies to use in the college admission process, and gain experience on a college campus.

Summer program for students with learning differences.The College Search East Program is intended for students to develop an understanding of the way that services and resources can vary among colleges. Participating students have the chance to visit colleges in the Greater Boston area to learn more about post-secondary education and examine the differences in the support services on these campuses. In addition, students have a chance to stay at Curry, learn about the resources that are available, and get a sense for life on a college campus.

Curry College, near Boston, is the home of the Program for the Advancement of Learning (PAL), which is a college-based program. The program is known for providing comprehensive support to college-ready students with learning differences such as specific learning disabilities and ADHD. Through PAL, college students work with a mentor, gain insight into their own learning, and develop academic strategies and techniques to help them attain their goals.

Participants: High school students.

Learn more: PAL College Search Summer Program


Summer at Landmark: High School Summer Program

Summer program for high school students with learning differences at Landmark CollegeLandmark College has been designed for students with learning differences and disabilities. It offers both associate degree and bachelor’s degree programs. The Landmark High School Summer Program is designed to assist upper grade-level high school students with the acquisition of academic techniques and tools that can be utilized in a college environment.

Landmark College summer program for high school students with learning disabilities and ADHDThe program offers interesting classes, exercises, and activities to help students gain insight into their own learning approach. There are a variety of activities utilized during the program to help students develop an understanding of their academic skills and begin to apply effective learning strategies in educational settings. The program provides the chance for students to learn from instructors, make connections with peers, and engage in collaborative group activities.

The summer program emphasizes building confidence, enhancing writing skills, and applying academic techniques. Students take a core class, a writing-based class, and choose an interesting elective option in subjects such as theater, photography, and more. Participants also have the opportunity to experience life on a college campus, learn new approaches to learning, cultivate strengths, and examine topics of interest.

Participants: High school students who will be going into the 11th or 12th grade.

Learn more: Landmark Pre-College High School Summer Program


Farleigh Dickinson University Summer Experience for Students with Learning Disabilities

Summer program for high school students with learning differences at Farleigh Dickinson UniversityFarleigh Dickinson University is the home of the Regional Center for Learning Disabilities. The university offers a summer program, for students with learning disabilities and differences, that is designed to help strengthen academic skills.

Farleigh Dickinson University summer program for high school students with learning disabilitiesThe commuter-oriented summer program has been developed to help high school students prepare for the transition to a college setting. In particular, participants in the program work on building their skills to align with the academic rigor of a post-secondary educational environment. Through the program, students have the chance to develop and enhance a variety of academic skills. During the program, students learn about topics such as organizational skills, study strategies, technology tools, and written expression.

In addition, the summer program provides students with the chance to take part in a workshop in math or reading. The workshops are designed for skill development in the focus area.

Participants: High school students who will be going into the 12th grade or teenagers who have just graduated from high school.

Learn more: FDU Summer Experience Program

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Mike Uretsky

Mike has worked in the field of education as a teacher, school counselor, program coordinator, and consultant. As an educator, he has helped high school students find summer programs, pre-college programs, and colleges that align with their interests and goals. He has an interest in assisting students with the transition from high school to college. Mike is a manager for Student Education Programs, an online directory that is designed to connect high school students with valuable summer pre-college opportunities.

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Donna Andrews

Donna has worked in the field of education in a variety of positions. She has been a high school teacher, college academic skills coordinator, and university professor. She has helped students achieve success in summer STEM programs and sports programs. She has also coordinated and taught in pre-college programs for high school students.

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