Article: “Getting Into College Doesn’t Mean Students Are Ready to Go”

We wanted to share this article by Dr. Lisa Damour from 2015.  The pandemic is leading people to consider other options for post-secondary planning.  In addition, it is important to determine whether your student is ready, and wants to attend college.
At Options for College Success, we talk with families about college readiness and alternative paths for when a student is not ready to go to college right away.  This can include planning a productive “gap year” or certificate-to-career programs.  Call or email our Admissions and Academics Coordinator, Kevin Holbrook,  to find out more!
Phone: 224-616-2831  Email:


From The New York Times
By Lisa Damour
April 27, 2015

Last October I held a hastily scheduled psychotherapy session with a teenager facing a disastrous start to her college career. When we met, she somberly shared that she was on her university’s radar for her uncontrolled drinking and had a coming court date for a disorderly conduct charge. Her parents wanted her to withdraw right away, but she had just started to make some solid friendships at college and was reluctant to go home. I saw her point, but understood where her parents were coming from: Given that she was clearly struggling, it was hard to imagine how she would handle the additional strain of trying to recover from her faltering start.

Every fall, I find myself in meetings like this one. Sometimes they’re with a teenage who slept through three midterms and is afraid to talk with his professors about how to set things right; sometimes with a student who is doing well academically but terrifying her parents with news that she is cutting herself or feeling suicidal. By the time they’re in my office, these adolescents are in a terrible position. If they haven’t already been sent home from college with heavy conditions for their return, they’re often calculating whether it’s better to drop out midsemester or to try to salvage some credits by taking leave at the end of the term.

When I ask about the events leading up to our meeting, I almost always get the same story: They spent their senior year of high school and usually several years before that hinting, if not sky-writing, that they weren’t ready to go to college. They were already drinking too much, missing due dates, or struggling to care for themselves in any number of ways. While I am sure there are examples out there, I have yet to see a student implode in the first year of college because of difficulties that arrived completely out of the blue.

In these meetings I can’t help but wonder, “Who thought it was a good idea to send you off to school?” But I get it, and not just the part about hindsight being 20/20. It’s not always easy to draw the line between typical teenage mistakes and a building meltdown. And most of us would choose to ride the current of sending our teenager to college over the sheer hassle of making alternate plans and the discomfort of explaining to friends that our child “just isn’t ready.”

Of course, the biggest barrier may well be the teenager’s own resistance to delaying enrollment. High school seniors who have secured and celebrated college admission are rarely eager to push the pause button. The drive for autonomy practically defines adolescence and it’s no small feat to bar that door. When offering counsel to parents in this position, I encourage them to say, “We want to support your plans, but we wouldn’t be doing our job as parents to send you away when you are showing us that you’re not ready to look after yourself.”

I’ve also offered advice on the university side of this problem while meeting with students in office hours as their psychology professor. To lend support without acting as their therapist I’ve developed an empathic, if well-worn, spiel: “There are things more important than school. Can you take some time off to address what’s making it hard for you to be here? The university isn’t going anywhere and you only get to do college once. Perhaps you could take a break and come back when you’re ready to make the most of this opportunity.”

Sitting with the young people who land in my practice, I imagine what one or two years of work or service would have done for them before heading off to college. The upsides of a gap year for all kinds of students have been documented and, to me, teenage years are like dog years: a year of maturation at age 18 is worth at least seven in later life.

Along with the benefits of a gap year we should also consider the stunning costs, both emotional and economic, of sending students to college prematurely. Taking unexpected leave from college can be humiliating and expensive. When it’s time to try again, students who transfer must disclose their dismissal or withdrawal from their first college, and they are almost certainly looking at options that would have been safety schools, at best, in their first round of applications.

Let’s not equate college admission with college readiness. The skills needed to graduate from high school and get into college have surprisingly little in common with those needed to manage, much less thrive, away from home in an undergraduate setting. There should be no shame in “taking time off.” On the contrary, we should admire the parents and teenagers who recognize that getting in isn’t the same as good to go.

Lisa Damour writes the monthly Adolescence column for the New York Times, serves as a regular contributor to CBS News, maintains a private practice, consults and speaks internationally, is a Senior Advisor to the Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University, and serves as the Executive Director of Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls. She is also the author of two New York Times best selling books, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.    Follow her on Twitter: @LDamour.

“People need to stop underestimating us”

Over the past couple of years, many stories have been published in the media about employers becoming more aware of how individuals with autism should not be overlooked in the hiring process, and any personal biases  towards individuals with autism need to be checked at the door.

This morning the Chicago Tribune published an article about a 17 year old with nonverbal autism and how he is raising awareness about not underestimating those with communication challenges.  This young man has a blog and is using this platform to create connections with others who have nonverbal autism.  This blog also opens up the eyes of those who are neuro-typical to the first hand experiences of a teenager with nonverbal autism.

Please click the link below to learn more about his story and to explore his blog!


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Merging Talent with Opportunities

Autism Speaks is celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month through October, and has numerous resources and information available!  Please click on this link to read more about re-thinking employment.


#autism  #autismspeaks #nationaldisabilityemploymentawarenessmonth  #NDEAM


Local Mother and Advocate Creating Opportunities for Latino Communities, Helping Support Individuals with Autism


In 2008, two mothers saw a gap in support services for young adults with learning challenges and disabilities. They decided to partner in founding Options for College Success to fill this gap.

WGN presented a story about a Chicago mother who also saw a gap, specifically in opportunities for individuals with autism in Latino communities, so she decided to create her own business to fill this gap!  Please click the link below to get the details and explore the opportunities created!

Young people with autism find sweet success in Chicago mom’s enterprise

To Our Founder’s: THANK YOU

Options for College Success was founded in 2009 by two mothers with a mission of supporting post- secondary students with learning challenges to be successful in college.  After working in the education field, both realized there were many students with learning challenges that were not receiving the support needed within the school system and decided they needed to intervene and help those students.  Over the years the mission developed into the more comprehensive program it is today, including finance skill building, independent living skills, social skills, vocational support, and providing social event opportunities.  These women had a vision and worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition.

As both of our founder’s have now retired, we wanted to highlight these incredible individuals that created this strong community, the Options for College Success family.

Christine Anderson worked in the education field for over 40 years.   She began in an inner-city school in Savannah, Georgia. She then transferred to the Savannah Association for Children with Specific Learning Disabilities. After raising her family in the Chicago area, Christine returned to the workforce, first as a director for an alternative high school and then as a director for a national program for young adults with learning challenges. The drive to advocate and support this population has been a passion of Christine’s.  Christine stepped down from her role as Executive Director in January of 2018.  She continues her dedication to the community, co-creating and launching an app, Glimmer (, with her son.

Shoshana Axler, born and raised in Chicago, was a classroom teacher as well as a mentor for many years in the Chicago area.  She earned a master’s degree from Rhode Island College in education.  Her commitment to the success of young adults creates an ongoing connection with all students and families she has served.  Shoshana spent several years fundraising for cancer research and then returned to the field of education.  Shoshana is the mother of 3 grown children and many grandchildren.  Shoshana retired this last week and will be moving to be with her family in Israel. Shoshana’s generosity, dedication to community, and enthusiasm is profound, and it runs deep within the foundation of our organization.

We are forever grateful to our founders! We will always continue the mission set forth by these brilliant women! The Options for College Success family wishes Christine and Shoshana joy and happiness as they embark on their new journey!

Spread the Word: Decreasing the Unemployment Rate for Individuals with Disabilities

There has been a spotlight for a few years now focusing on hiring individuals with disabilities, including individuals on the autism spectrum. Those of us lucky enough to work with individuals with disabilities know how valuable they can be to various companies and organizations!  We need to spread the word to businesses that they are missing out on a pool of applicants!

Let’s change up the employment process and check biases at the door to decrease the unemployment rate among individuals with disabilities!

Hiring those with disabilities isn’t charity, it’s good business

At War with a Learning Disability

Our organization came across an interesting article from The New York Times Magazine.  A soldier wrote about her experience as an active duty soldier in the army, navigating her military dream with a learning disability.

We focus our work on developing grit and perseverance. These qualities provided Ms. Zephrine with a strong foundation to realize her dream of joining the army, and obtaining her master’s degree in social work.

We are sharing this story as a way to showcase the life experiences told firsthand by individuals with learning disabilities and other challenges. Please note that this is one person’s experience.

“We don’t care about eye contact”


Obtaining employment as an individual with special needs is a challenge to say the least.  Think about all of the elements involved in seeking out employment and being hired: the job search, resume, cover letter, follow up, phone and in-person interviews, becoming accustomed with a new routine and new faces.

Employment provides one with a feeling of fulfillment, the ability to be independent, developing new relationships, and face new challenges.  Challenge help people grow.

Please read the article below from the Chicago Tribune.  Thank you EY for re-thinking your hiring processes and employment opportunities!

@EYnews  @chicagotribune

On Giving Tuesday, Donate to Organizations that Fill the Gaps

Options for College Success provides services and support to fill the gap for individuals with learning challenges and disabilities aging out of the school system and launching into their next journey. These individuals stop receiving services through the state between 18 and 22 years of age.  Where do they go next?

These individuals may not be ready for post-secondary schooling nor have the skills to be employed. Employment rates for those with disabilities are very low, and educational attainment is essential to the success of young adults with disabilities because the jobs of the future require technical training and education. Based on the 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report from the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics, in the U.S. 35.9% of individuals aged 18-64 with disabilities were employed versus 76.6% of those without a disability.

At our organization, we customize an individual’s plan based on where they currently are at in development and what goals they look to achieve. We fill the gaps with hands on, one on one support to provide them with the opportunity to live a healthy, productive and independent life.

Please donate to Options for College Success on this day and as we move into the holiday season.  We want to improve and expand our programming to fit the increasing needs of the population we work with.  Your gift, no matter the size, will directly impact the success of our students.

Please visit and click on our donate button at the bottom of the page or send a check  payable to Options for College Success.

Options for College Success

1515 maple Ave. Suite 190

Evanston, IL 60201

Autism and Working

By Marcella Mackowiak

#JayGoltz of the #NewYorkTimes did a fantastic interview with Dave and Anthony, who is on the spectrum. It follows Anthony and is progress on getting a job at Mariano’s in Chicago. We as a community need to keep in mind that people on the spectrum are just as capable as the rest of us. The article below tells the story, and it’s a great read…