Identifying Learning Disabilities

Identifying Learning Disabilities

source: Learning Disabilities Association of America

Learning disabilities are due to genetic and/or neurobiological factors that alter brain functioning in a manner that affects one or more cognitive processes related to learning. These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing, and/or math.  They can also interfere with higher-level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short-term memory, and attention.  It is important to realize that learning disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond academics and can impact relationships with family, friends, and in the workplace.

Since difficulties with reading, writing, and/or math are recognizable problems during the school years, the signs and symptoms of learning disabilities are most often diagnosed during that time.  However, some individuals do not receive an evaluation until they are in post-secondary education or adults in the workforce.  Other individuals with learning disabilities may never receive an evaluation and go through life, never knowing why they have difficulties with academics and why they may be having problems in their jobs or in relationships with family and friends.

Learning disabilities should not be confused with learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps; of intellectual disability; emotional disturbance; or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantages.

Generally speaking, people with learning disabilities are of average or above-average intelligence. There often appears to be a gap between the individual’s potential and actual achievement. This is why learning disabilities are referred to as “hidden disabilities”: the person looks perfectly “normal” and seems to be a very bright and intelligent person, yet may be unable to demonstrate the skill level expected from someone of a similar age.

A learning disability cannot be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong challenge. However, with appropriate support and intervention, people with learning disabilities can achieve success in school, at work, in relationships, and in the community.

In Federal law, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the term is “specific learning disability,” one of 13 categories of disability under that law.

“Learning Disabilities” is an “umbrella” term describing a number of other, more specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dysgraphia. Find the signs and symptoms of each, plus strategies to help below.

Types of Learning Disabilities


A specific learning disability that affects a person’s ability to understand numbers and learn math facts.


A specific learning disability that affects a person’s handwriting ability and fine motor skills.


A specific learning disability that affects reading and related language-based processing skills.

Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities

Has trouble interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions or body language and may have poor coordination.

Oral / Written Language Disorder and Specific Reading Comprehension Deficit

Learning disabilities that affect an individual’s understanding of what they read or of spoken language. The ability to express one’s self with oral language may also be impacted.
Would you like to know how we work with students with learning differences in their transition to college? Let’s chat!
The Weil College Advising Team

Understanding the teenage brain

Written by Resilience Navigator

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, It doesn’t matter how smart teens are or how well they scored on the SAT or ACT. Good judgment isn’t something they can excel in, at least not yet.

The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 26. Adolescents are prone to at-risk behavior simply based on their brain development.

In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.

In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not always at the same rate. That’s why when teens have overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.

What’s a parent to do?

You’re the most important role model your kids have. Sure, their friends are important to them, but the way you behave and fulfill your responsibilities will have a profound and long-lasting effect on your children.

  • Discussing the consequences of their actions or behavior can help teens link impulsive thinking with facts. This helps the brain make these connections and wires the brain to make this link more often.
  • Remind your teens that they’re resilient and competent. Because they’re so focused on the moment, adolescents have trouble seeing they can play a part in changing bad situations. It can help to remind them of times in the past they thought would be devastating but turned out for the best.
  • Become familiar with things that are important to your teens. It doesn’t mean you have to like hip-hop music, but showing an interest in the things they’re involved in shows them they’re important to you.
  • Ask teens if they want you to respond when they come to you with problems, or if they just want you to listen.

Signs of trouble

It’s normal for teens to be down or out of sorts for a couple of days. But if you see a significant mood or behavioral change that lasts more than 2 weeks, it could mean something else is going on, such as depression.

If you think your teen could be depressed or struggling with mental health, promptly seek professional treatment for your child. Depression is serious and, if left untreated, can be life-threatening.

Teen need guidance, even though they may think they don’t. Understanding their development can help you support them in becoming independent, responsible adults.

Questions? Let’s chat!

The Weil College Advising Team

Virtual Volunteering Opportunities

Virtual Volunteering Opportunities

Written by Tatiana Moorland

We’re all experiencing a significant shift in lifestyle right now.

We’re learning how to work remotely, entertain ourselves in close quarters, and not murder our significant others (but at least our pets are thriving!).

We’ve had to give up a lot in the name of stopping the spread of coronavirus, but one thing you don’t need to give up right now is volunteering.

Volunteering from home is a great way to spend some of your time during social isolation, and it’s much needed. No matter what your skillsets and passions are, there are numerous opportunities to volunteer online or from your home (or at a safe social distance).

In this post, I’m going to share how you can virtually support a range of causes as well as giving back to your own community during this scary and uncertain time.

7 Virtual Volunteer Opportunities

If you’re looking to use your skills in the service of an organization, or get your organization listed online, check out these sites.

1. VolunteerMatch

VolunteerMatch is a long-running volunteer organization that matches passion and talent with important causes. They have hundreds of virtual volunteering experiences in areas ranging from health and medicine, children and youth, education, to community building. They’ve also created a COVID-19 hub specifically for coronavirus volunteer opportunities.

Learn about virtual volunteer opportunities here, and visit the COVID-19 hub here.

2. Points of Light Global Network

Points of Light Global Network organizes an annual Global Volunteer Month, which happens to be April. They connect virtual volunteers with projects across 37 countries across the globe. You can search for off-site projects that fit your schedule and skills or find do-it-yourself projects that you can do from home.

Visit Points of Light Global Network’s virtual volunteering opportunities and resources here.

3. UN Online Volunteering

The UN has created an online portal of online volunteering activities, many that support women and youth. They currently have numerous COVID-19 specific virtual projects. Search for volunteer opportunities ranging from translation, art and design, writing and editing, advocacy, community organizing, technology development, and more.

Search through the UN Online Volunteering site here.

4. Crisis Text Hotline

The Crisis Text Line relies on volunteer crisis counselors who work from home. Trained crisis counselors answer texts from people in crisis, through active listening, collaborative problem solving, and safety planning. The current COVID-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on mental health, with many struggling with uncertainty, panic, unemployment, and overwhelm. Now more than ever, those in crisis need support. Other crisis phone lines in your area may also be looking for support.

Learn how you can become a crisis counselor from home.

5. Translators Without Borders

If you’re bilingual, this one is for you! Translators without Borders uses volunteers to translate millions of words. Volunteers are used to translating medical texts and crisis responses, both of which are much needed right now. They also depend on volunteers for other roles, like project management, graphic or web design, and fundraising.

You can apply to become a virtual volunteer with Translators Without Borders through this page.

6. Bookshare®

Bookshare® is an organization that makes print materials accessible to children and adults with disabilities. It counts on virtual volunteers to take on tasks like scanning and proofreading, describing images, and providing support for Bookshare® teachers and families.

Learn more about volunteering with Bookshare® by visiting this site.

7. Table Wisdom

Table Wisdom connects adults and foreign-born students through weekly mentoring video chats. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has launched a Co-video Partner program that matches volunteers with someone from a different city (to include those who are not foreign-born) who has been affected by social distancing. Participants will take part in 30-minute weekly video chats that allow for meaningful conversations during this crisis.

Become a Table Wisdom volunteer for an international student or an isolated person in need by visiting this site.

5 Additional Ways to Give Back to Your Community

The coronavirus has impacted every community across the world. With mass business and school closures, quarantine causing isolation, frontline workers put at risk, and public health resources becoming slim, everyone is struggling.

Here are ways you can support those in need right in your hometown.

1. Check on These Individuals

Call or text your high-risk neighbors, whether they are elderly or sick. Ask if they’re okay, and in need of items like groceries, toiletries, and prescription pick-ups. To be extra cautious, drop items off at the door to keep your neighbors safe.

2. Donate These Kinds of Supplies

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are quickly running short on protective gear like masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment. If you’re stocked up on medical equipment from before or to prepare for the pandemic, or worked somewhere like a nail salon that has these kinds of supplies on hand, consider donating them to medical workers on the frontline.

3. Donate Blood

Blood donation is always needed, especially in times of crisis. With blood donation events and drives canceled due to the spread of COVID-19, the American Red Cross has a severe blood shortage. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

If you are healthy and able to donate blood, make an appointment here, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS to find a local donation site.

4. Support Organizations Near You

Nonprofits across the globe have canceled fundraising events, but are still trying to meet the increasing needs of vulnerable populations brought on by the coronavirus. Reach out to local nonprofits and churches, and see how you may be able to use your skills to support them virtually.

You would be surprised by the range of talents that nonprofits can use right now. Some needed tasks may include:

  • Research

  • Writing and editing

  • Email marketing and social media management

  • Graphic design

  • Fundraising calls and letters

  • Data entry

  • Translating

  • Book-keeping

  • Legal advice

5. Say Thank You

Although being stuck at home is a huge challenge, frontline workers are putting their health at risk every day during the coronavirus pandemic. If you know a doctor, nurse, or healthcare worker, consider sending them $15 for coffee or a meal, through an app like Venmo or PayPal. Or, send food delivery to healthcare facilities. Even a simple thank-you email or text will go a long way.



How competitive for admissions will you be at a given school? This is based on several factors. Some factors are more objectively measurable in the college applications process than others. The easily measured factors include:

  • Your GPA
  • The quality (rigor) of your course schedule
  • Your test scores on ACT, SAT, Subject Tests, and APs.

Less measurable, but equally important in your college application process are:

  • Your resume of activities, work, and other experiences
  • Contributions you made to your community
  • Your love of learning
  • Your life’s experiences
Using Measurable Factors

Check admissions data for each college on your list. Look at the range of SAT or ACT scores and GPAs. Your test scores will put you in one of three zones for the college: green, yellow or red.

What puts a school in your GREEN zone?
  • your test scores are in the top 25% of students
  • the college has acceptance rates of 60-100%
What puts a school in your YELLOW zone?
  • your test scores are in the mid 50% range, along with most other students
  • the college has an acceptance rate of 20-60%
What puts a school in your RED zone?
  • your test scores are lower than the average scores at the college
  • the college has a low acceptance rate (typically under 20%)
The big question: How many schools should you have in each zone?
  • 2-4 in the GREEN zone. These are your SURE BETS or SAFETY colleges. For schools in this zone, you can often expect to receive merit scholarship awards.
  • 3-5 in the YELLOW zone. These are your EXPECTED or TARGET colleges. A majority of your college list should be in this zone. It is your sweet spot for college admissions.
  • 1-3 in the RED zone. These are your REACH colleges. This is where immeasurable factors can be very influential.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC

Myths and Facts on Merit Scholarships

Myths and Facts on Merit Scholarships

There is no topic in the college-going process that has more intricacies than Financial Aid. It is complex, “case by case”, and ever-changing. There are rules that get perfected and tweaked over the years, forms that have their complications, deadlines, deadlines, and deadlines. Over the past 9 years in which I have explained the process of financial aid to parents, I met a few that voiced their conclusion of who can pay for college without a huge debt at the end of the 4 years: the very rich, and the very poor.

We have the costs: many private competitive colleges cost $60,000 or $65,000 annually for undergraduate studies, which for most parents is quite an anxiety-producing figure. In addition, if the child’s dreams take him to graduate school, well, throw in three more years and a few hundred thousand more. Don’t despair, there are good options at State/public schools (see my blog on Honors Programs at Public Universities). However, if the student is set on a highly competitive private school, ivy’s or not, those are the numbers.

And here is where some parents ask me the usual question: Will their child’s outstanding abilities grant him/her a scholarship at an Ivy League college? After all, he/she is a piano virtuoso, a star soccer player, won X prize in fencing, or a gold medal in interscholastic wrestling…

Here is the answer: Ivy League universities usually meet 100% of demonstrated financial need, and therefore only offer need-based aid. If a student demonstrates financial need, for example, that the parents earn a basic salary or are unemployed, the school will cover the tuition. This is how low-income students are able to attend highly competitive private universities.

However, if a family has the means, they are expected to pay tuition, even if the student is a star. This means that highly talented students, musicians, and athletes will not be eligible for any merit scholarships at schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Nevertheless, there are exceptions to the rule. Some highly-regarded, very-selective private universities that do offer generous merit scholarships for top applicants. These awards recognize those who excel in the classroom, serve as leaders at their school, and contribute to their community. They are awarded to the best candidates in the incoming freshman class, regardless of family income or assets.

Here are five such opportunities.

Carnegie Mellon University

  • Presidential Scholarship
  • # of Annual Awards: 90
  • Full tuition and fees
  • Automatic Consideration
  • Criteria: academic and/or artistic talent

Duke University

  • Robertson Scholars
  • # of Annual Awards: 18
  • Full ride (tuition, fees, room, board) plus a stipend for three summers
  • Separate Scholarship Application required
  • Criteria: young leaders who strive to make transformational contributions to society

Emory University

  • Emory Scholars
  • # of Annual Awards: 25
  • Full ride (tuition, fees, room, board) plus stipends for summer
  • Separate Scholarship Application required. Finalists will participate in an On-Campus Visit
  • Criteria: intellectual curiosity, creative thinking, servant leadership, communication skills, and contribution to community

Rice University

  • Trustee Distinguished Scholarship
  • # of Annual Awards (not disclosed)
  • $24,000 – $26,500 annually
  • Automatic Consideration
  • Criteria: student who distinguish themselves scholastically and personally, even within Rice’s highly competitive group of admitted students

Vanderbilt University

  • Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship Program
  • # of Annual Awards: 150
  • Full tuition plus one summer stipend
  • Separate Scholarship Application required
  • Criteria: academic achievement, intellectual promise, leadership and contribution outside the classroomm

Reach out to us for an overview of college financial aid!

The Weil College Advising Team

Winter Break for College Students

Winter Break for College Students

Exams are over! You want to leave school completely behind you. Relax, play with your pets, sleep in…but after a few days, consider activities that will help you in the long run (guaranteed)

  • Writing a thank you letter to a college professor who was particularly supportive or inspiring
  • Asking a professor if he/she is willing to write an academic letter of recommendation over the break
  • Selecting items of particular achievement to add to a professional portfolio
  • Updating your resume/cover letter/Linkedin profile to reflect new skills or training
  • Reviewing your graduating plan – are you on track to graduate?
  • Reflecting on your performance to identify areas of desired or needed improvement
  • Thinking ahead to the summer – internship applications? Taking summer courses?
  • Thanking your parents (and friends/other family members) for emotionally and financially supporting your academic Goals!

Have a wonderful winter break!


Weil College Advising, LLC