My high school senior has dysgraphia and is having trouble writing her college essay. Will colleges accept an alternative, like a video?
A few four-year colleges have recently introduced the concept of submitting a video as part of the application process. But that’s as a substitute for a high school transcript. It’s not to replace the essay. Schools in the visual and performing arts will require a portfolio or audition. Those, too, are in addition to the application.
Asking the admissions staff if you can use a video instead of the essay could send up a red flag. College courses involve writing papers. There will be essay questions on tests. Schools want to assess your child’s ability—even if she struggles with writing.
To help her do her best with essay, I’d consider some of the following strategies:
Use a speech-to-text program to convert her spoken ideas into written form. This is something she could take with her to college.
Have her record her ideas, and then have a scribe write these out by hand or on the computer. (That scribe could be you!)
Encourage her to use a graphic organizer to help focus her ideas and create a structure for her essay.
Have her discuss her ideas with you, a friend or family member, a teacher or an essay-writing coach before she sits down to write. She could even write about how she has faced the challenges of having and has found ways to work around them.
One more thing to consider: Some colleges, particularly two-year programs, don’t require an essay to apply. If your child completes a year successfully she can apply to a four-year school as a transfer student. In that case, she may be able to avoid the standard application.
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About the author
About the author
Jim Rein, MA has lectured on postsecondary options and summer programs for kids and young adults with learning and thinking differences.