Monday, September 09, 2013

Aspergers and College Interviews

Yesterday my son had a college interview.  This is kind of a big deal for a number of reasons:

1) Neither of my two other kids have ever had to do a college interview.  Ironic, since they are supposedly "typical" and would probably do fine in a college interview.
2) If any of you out there have a kid on the spectrum, you know that having a 30 minute conversation with a stranger isn't exactly something that comes naturally to them.

We are fairly sure that this is the college my son wants to attend.  It's somewhat selective, and his test scores currently are average, while his grades for this particular school are pretty good.  We've visited the school, toured the school, and actually have had an interview at the school.  This interview, though, was carried on at a local Starbucks while the admission counselor was visiting our area.

Here's my advice about the situation:

Make absolutely sure, by Google Maps or otherwise, that you know the location of the interview.  We did not, and Google maps was confused as to where this Starbucks was as well.  We drove our son to the interview, and made him ten minutes late.  In this case, it was not a big deal, since nobody else was scheduled to interview that day.

Practice, practice, practice.  We got online and checked out as many "College Interview Question" websites as we could find.  We went over and over the possible questions, all the while telling our son that the interviewer may not ask any or all of these questions.  I'm sure that our son answered some of these questions in odd or unusual ways, but like my hubby said -- that's just typical 17 year old boy.

The other thing we did -- we prepared him by asking really weird questions, to get him to try thinking quickly and on his feet, so to speak.  Ever realize how little you are asked off-the-wall questions?  Well, in an interview, an off-the-wall question might be exactly what the interviewer does to see how well a student responds to uncomfortable situations.  It's a good thing we did this.  My son was asked "How do you think your teachers would describe you?"  I was so happy to hear that he responded "Wow, I've never really thought about that question. [great stalling technique, I thought...] I think they would describe me as funny!"  Many people would think that saying "My teachers would describe me as intellectual, smart, hardworking" etc. would be the right answer, but no -- those are kiss-up-to-the-interviewer answers.  Something that is genuine is much better here.

I researched, and apparently khaki pants, button down shirt, belts that match your shoes, and a tie (or not) are good things to wear to a college interview.  Arrive on time, shake your interviewer's hand, and after sitting down, when spoken to, smile and lean in to the interviewer's side of the table

The interview was conducted outside the Starbucks, where their discussion wouldn't be too much of a distraction for others.  As the parents, we sat on the inside of the Starbucks, facing the interviewer and my son just outside the window, which made for quite the view of what was going on.  I tried not to watch too much, but from what I could see, there was much laughing and smiling and general fun going on.  My son really lucked out and got a wonderful admissions counselor, who was probably only four or five years older than him.  She was incredibly engaging, and made the interview an enjoyable process.

Because of the youth and slight inexperience of my son's admissions counselor, she was unaware of what an I.E.P is.  Once she understood that my son was interested in how this particular college would support students with "disabilities" she was able to answer his questions.  She also had a five or ten minute discussion with us as his parents so that we too could ask questions.

Five years ago, if you had asked me if I would have thought this particular situation would have gone this well, I would have probably said "no."  It's a real gift to be able to watch the process a little, and see what a good job my son did.  Now it's time to keep our finger's crossed, and after my son applies to the school, wait and see if he gets in!

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