Marybeth Kravets on Guiding Your Child with Learning Differences During COVID-19

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Welcome to College Admissions in the Era of COVID-19 Virtual Summit! On today’s episode, we give you a glimpse into Dr. Legatt’s conversation with Marybeth Kravets.


VO: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast for students seeking to get admitted to top-tier colleges. Each episode will feature an important tip for your college admission success, delivered with candor and love. If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the mind of a college admissions officer, this is your chance. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. So, what’s your dream school? 

AL: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk. I am Dr. Aviva Legatt, founder and elite admissions expert at Ivy Insight and author of “Get Real and Get In”. You’re going to be hearing today from our summit speaker, and I’m so excited to share just a glimpse of the summit with you. I wanted to give you a sense of what you missed if you had to miss it and invite you to get a VIP All-Access Pass to the summit. This access pass will allow you to get full, unlimited and lifetime access to all those session recordings. This is just a clip. You’ll also have the ability to attend live Q & A session with me where I will answer your questions about college admissions right on the spot. And you’re going to also gain access to my personal Ultimate College Application Template bundle with bonus materials and that has a value of $397. So click on the show notes. Go ahead, reserve your VIP ticket so that you can gain access to the full summit experience and all its perks. See you soon. 

Now with that, since we’re at the time, I’d love to welcome Marybeth Kravets. I’ll introduce her, and then I’ll tell you what we’re going to talk about in today’s session. So Marybeth Kravets is a Director of College counseling for Wolcott College Preparatory High School and the President of Marybeth Kravets & Associates, which provides college counseling and educational consulting. She has served as the President of the National Association for College Admissions Consulting (Consoling excuse me) which is a huge deal because this NACA (National Association for College Admissions Counseling) is the largest college admissions organization, And in fact, I just read their email this morning. I believe they now have over 23,000 members, all from admissions officers, independent consultants, faculty members and others who are interested in the field of admissions. It’s a huge deal. And Marybeth is an amazing expert in this field. Marybeth is a noted author of the Princeton Review Random House Book, which I have right here, “The K&W Guide to Learning Differences”, and incredibly, we’re on the 15th edition of this book, and we have a copy to give away to one of the attendees. She’s received many awards, including the Community Service Award from the Harvard University Club of Chicago and the NACA Gail Wilson Award for Outstanding Service. We’re honored to have you, Marybeth. Thank you so much for being here. 

MK: You’re welcome, and I’m pleased to be here and nice to be with you again, Aviva. 

AL: Yeah, definitely. So today we’re gonna be talking about guiding your child with learning differences during COVID-19. It’s really amazing. I’m just learning about the field of learning differences and really how common learning differences are among students. I was reading recently that about 1 in 34 boys has autism spectrum disorder, and I don’t know what the stats are for other learning differences, but that is an incredible number of people who have this disorder. And there are many other learning differences like ADHD, mental health, and I’m sure Mary Beth could talk about what all the differences are. If you have an IEP, you have a learning difference. And I know many students do have an IEP out there. So just to kick things off, tell us a little bit about your work with students with learning differences or how you’ve seen the perceptions change. Let’s say in the last 5 to 10 years with respect to admissions. 


MK: That’s a great question. It’s so interesting. And when I started in the field, there was no designation of students with learning disabilities. And you talk about the boys being designated now on the autism spectrum, and there’s still so many that are not even identified. It is incredibly important that we are now identifying and giving students the opportunity to learn their strategies while they’re in high school, –elementary, junior high and high school–so that when they get to college, they are prepared to be able to navigate that scene. I think that now you’re seeing more colleges with programs, more colleges with resources, more college and structured programs. What’s really the most notable is the fact that the counties now have gone to test optional. So before COVID, you had about 800 colleges that were test optional. We don’t require ACT, we don’t require SAT, and we will review your application without testing. When COVID hit and students couldn’t get testing and testing was being canceled, more than double those colleges went to test optional. And what I find so interesting is that now that we are sort of moving through COVID that they have agreed to retain test optional as an opportunity for next year and maybe for the next two or 3 years. And it and I hope I pray that testing will no longer come back on the scene. It’s so inequitable because many do not have the money to do test prep. They don’t have the money to have the Internet and the resources and the parents may or may not have gone to college. So I see that things have changed clearly leaning more towards the student and what they’re providing. And the fact that they have a learning challenge is now being looked at as a very big plus for grit, motivation, determination. 

AL: There are a couple of things that you talked about that I’d love to hear your perspective. One is this idea of self identification with respect to the learning difference, and the other is about that decision of test optional. So go to the self identification piece first. So when students are applying to college, are there ways that you would advise them to self identify as having a learning difference or learning disability? And what are some good strategies that they can use to do that? 

MK: That is always a big question that I’m asked. Big question from parents: should we disclose, should we not disclose? There’s no iron clad answer to that. I really think it depends on the situation. For instance, you mentioned that I work at Walcott College Prep. Walcott College Prep is a fabulous new high school opened up eight years ago, and all students are college bound, very rigorous curriculum, including physics and bio and chemistry and calculus for graduation. And yet you cannot enroll in walk out College Prep unless you have a learning challenge. So every college that our student applies to knows from the profile that the student has a learned a challenge. So the question I’m closing are not disclosing is already there, but I think that the students have to tell their story very often. There’s a good reason to disclose. They may have had a disciplined math or foreign language, something that had been heard from them, and it shows up on the transcript. So tell me your story. You might have had some resource class that’s on your transcript. Well, don’t just stick your head in the sand and pretend you’re the ostrich and they can’t see you disclose it. Talk about it. Talk about where you were, where you are, known, what you’ve learned, how you’ve learned to navigate it, that shows that you have grown with this. You understand it, you accept it, you are actually proud of it. And then the other side of that is there may not be a reason to disclose. I mean, you have many things about you that are your story, and if telling your story without writing about a disability, you should tell your story and include what you want. 

AL: Thank you. That’s such great advice and hopeful reminder for all of us working with students with learning differences. And it sounds like in some cases it’s just going to be the obvious thing to do to disclose. And I would tend to advise people unless there’s some familial or cultural barrier from disclosing. I think it’s all part of a student’s narrative, the challenges that they’ve had to face and hopefully over in this college application process. 

MK: I always say to see the students that you describe close and it has any impact on your admission to that school. I say that you don’t really want to go to that school, and really, it’s illegal for colleges to look at a disability and use it in a negative way. I would say most often it’s viewed, as you said, positive and especially during Covid. But if you think about it, not only were they remote for many students. But they remote and learning in a way that they learn differently. And their teachers very often may have not been trained to teach remotely. So again, these students showed awesome determination, grit, and power to give others.

VO: College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by Aviva Legatt, edited by Stephanie Carlin, and produced by Incontrera Consulting. I’m Caroline Stokes and this has been your daily boost of college admissions insight. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. For more information on Dr. Legatt and Ivy Insight visit www.ivyinsight.com. And you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, “Get Real and Get In”, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.