Executive Function Strategies Blog

The Secret to Success in College: An Educational Consultant's View


Editor's note: This week, we feature guest blogger Judith S. Bass, CEP. Please read her full bio below.

As a parent, you want your child to succeed in high school and go on to college. Naturally, you want to do everything you can to help your child get theJudy_Bass.png best grades possible. So, you hire tutors for every subject. You sit with your son every night to monitor his homework, and you wake him up every morning to be sure he gets to school on time. You set up a study schedule and help him review for his tests. You contact his teachers on a regular basis to find out how he is doing in each of his classes.

And while this exhausting approach may yield some good grades, you find yourself thinking “How will he learn to function independently in college?”

The good news is, you’re asking yourself the right question.

As an educational consultant, I meet with families at all stages of their child’s high school career. Parents are often surprised when I praise a student for earning a C in a challenging class; when it is earned through the student’s hard work and persistence, it is a more significant achievement than an A earned by “the support team.” The child who learns early in high school how to do the work himself, regardless of the grade earned, will be better prepared for success in college.

Many parents do not fully realize the degree of scaffolding that has been imposed on their child’s schooling by tutors, resource teachers, and the parents themselves to help the child earn good grades. In some cases, this intensive support has an unintended consequence: the student has not developed the executive functioning skills* needed to succeed independently, whether in college or a career. In my experience, the students who are primed for success in college have learned to manage their time well, follow through with commitments, and are willing to seek help when they need it.

What can you do to promote your child’s success in college?

The secret is to begin well before high school graduation. When your child is struggling in middle school or high school, working with an Executive Function coach can be an excellent solution to benefit your child over the long term. The goal of a trained coach is to help the student develop strategies to become an independent learner. College students who find themselves unprepared to manage their time and productivity can also seek out Executive Function coaching; coaching sessions via Skype can be very effective for these students.

If your child is close to finishing high school, another option to consider is delaying college and enrolling him in a gap year program that focuses on college readiness and Executive Functioning skills. When recommending such programs, I look for those that provide structure, promote emotional growth, and assist students in developing a sense of personal responsibility. In addition, programs for students with weak Executive Functioning skills should focus on students’ strengths and include experiences that boost self-confidence and self-esteem.

Yes, those excellent grades will allow your child to be accepted to many colleges, but getting in is very different from staying in. Does your child have the executive function skills necessary to succeed in college and in life?

*Executive function skills are those mental processes that enable students to get started on assignments, stay organized, manage their time, focus attention, remember directions, prioritize tasks, and control impulsive behaviors.

Do you know a high school or college student who would benefit from strategies to become an independent learner? Find out more about how Executive Function coaching can help. 


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Judith S. Bass, CEP, is a nationally recognized expert in the field of college placement for students with learning differences and attention disorders. Judy is the founder of Bass Educational Services, LLC, an educational consulting firm that provides comprehensive college planning for students who learn differently. She has also developed CollegeWebLD, a one-stop source of information on college disability services in over 400 colleges in the US. Judy received her undergraduate degree in Spanish and Education from Stony Brook University, earned a Graduate Level Certificate in College Counseling from UCLA and has earned the credential of Certified Educational Planner.  In addition, Judy was an instructor in UC Irvine's College Consulting Certificate program for four years, teaching a course for new consultants interested in working with students who learn differently. She is a frequent presenter at national and regional conferences as well as to parent groups throughout the United States.  Email: Judy@basseducationalservices.com.

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