Recently, I had the opportunity to join dozens of other independent college counselors at a professional development roundtable, which focused on the needs of learning disabled and neuro-diverse students (LD/ND) navigating the college admissions process. As we divided up into smaller groups and talked about strategies to best support students and families, I was struck by the comment that students should be both “capable and ready” to go to college.


Admittedly, I had never spent a lot of time thinking about the differences between these two words – Capable and Ready. It is easy to conflate these two words to mean the same thing or to believe that if someone is capable of doing something then they are ready to take it on. Yet, as I sat back and processed these two words, I realized that being capable of going to college and being ready to go to college are not the same thing and they both deserve a deeper analysis and understanding to help support students and ensure long-term success.


The Difference Between Being “Capable” & “Ready”

Merriam Webster defines the term capable as “having attributes (such as physical or mental power) required for performance or accomplishment”. When we relate capability to the college admissions process, one might look closely at whether or not their student has developed the intellectual skills needed to perform at the post-secondary level. We can determine this by examining the high school grades, course curriculum, and rigor that a student has chosen to take on in those high school courses. If a student is in a college preparatory level class and earning a respectable B in the course, then the assumption is made they are learning the requisite skills and knowledge to be successful in the college environment. That does not mean that the college level coursework will not be challenging, but we believe their high school academic experiences are a stronger indicator of a students capabilities to succeed in college.


So we know one way a student can be capable of doing college-level work, but are they ready for it?


When it comes to college readiness, we might have to dig a bit deeper to determine if a student is ready to tackle the challenges of the college academic experience. With a student capable of earning strong grades in a college preparatory curriculum, we then have to ask, what have they done to earn those grades? How much does your student read during a given school week? Does your student know how to organize and write a 10-page paper? Does your student have a specific way in which they study for tests and quizzes? As a family member, could you say that your student can read and write at a high level of independence? If the answers to these questions are a yes, then one can assume that from the academic standpoint, a student is ready for the academic challenges of college. If the answers are mostly no, then it is possible a student who is capable of doing college preparatory level work in high school, still might not be ready for what the college classroom offers.


Being capable and ready for college goes beyond just the academic experience – it also includes the social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual experiences. For students and families who are beginning to navigate the college admissions process or have just finalized the experience, I highly recommend spending some time thinking about topics related to self-management, advocacy, and self-awareness. One great tool, the Landmark College Guide to Assessing College Readiness, provides an opportunity for students and families to explore college readiness from these varying experiences. While this tool is meant for LD/ND students, its assessment can also be relevant to neuro-typical students as well.


If you or your student would like to explore topics of capability and readiness for college, please connect with us to learn more about our services and opportunities at


And don’t forget to join my free webinar on June 8, 2021, “College Admissions During Covid: What to Expect & Strategies to Plan.” Register here now.