David Marcus on Post-High School Alternative Paths for Differently Wired Kids

gender nonconformity kids

In this week’s episode we’re talking about what we often call in the neurodivergent space long runways for our emerging young adults, specifically alternative paths for differently wired students who are graduating high school but may not either be ready for a “typical” college experience or for whom college isn’t part of the plan.

To talk about it, I brought college admissions coach Dave Marcus back to the show. You may have listened to our episode from a few years back where we talked about how the college admissions process and criteria was shifting as a result of the Covid pandemic. We do get a little update from Dave on the admissions landscape, but most of the this episode is dedicated to considering other options for students, including gap years, apprenticeships, taking a few classes at a community college, and most importantly, slowing the whole “launching” process down to support kids who would really benefit from extra time to develop and grow, recover from mental health challenges, de-stress, and more. The spirit of this conversation is an important reminder that every student’s journey is different, and it’s so important that we don’t compare our kids’ paths to others, but rather get curious about what would most support their unique timeline and strengths. 


About David Marcus

David L. Marcus is a college admissions coach who loves helping students and parents find balance and joy. He has been a journalist, author and teacher – as well as a writing coach for CEOs. David covered education as a reporter for U.S. News magazine and Newsday in New York. As a foreign correspondent, he shared the Pulitzer Prize for a series about violence against women. As a journalist, he lived and worked in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia.

David wrote a book about college admissions, Acceptance (published by Penguin Books). He also wrote a book about struggling teens, What It Takes to Pull Me Through (published by Houghton Mifflin). He has appeared on the Today show and NPR’s Morning Edition; he has spoken about education at conferences, schools, churches, and synagogues across the U.S. David is an honors graduate of Brown University. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. But he says classes at a community college changed his life.


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • What has changed for students who are college bound now that we’re on the other side of the pandemic
  • How the decision-making and admission process has changed for students and for colleges
  • Why gap years can be such a good option for some students and the different ways a gap year might look
  • Why community college might be a good starting point for neurodivergent kids
  • Other options for kids who don’t want to take the college route after high school
  • Advice for parents with kids nearing the end of high school on how to support them after they graduate


Resources mentioned for alternatives to college for differently wired kids


This Season’s Sponsor: Fusion Academy

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Fusion is now enrolling for both summer catch-up courses and full fall enrollment. Sign up for a free 1-to-1 trial session at FusionAcademy.com/Tilt.


Want to go deeper?

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There’s something here for everyone, whether you’re a sit back and absorb learner, a hands-on, connect and engage learner, and everything in between. Join the Differently Wired Club and get unstuck, ditch the overwhelm, and find confidence, connection, and JOY in parenting your differently wired child.


Learn more about the Differently Wired Club

Episode Transcript

Debbie Reber  00:00

Tilt Parenting is proud to partner with Fusion Academy this season. Fusion Academy is the world’s most personalized school with one to one classrooms that match your student’s pace and preferences so they can learn better, dive deeper, and never get left behind. Learn more about the most personalized school in the world and how it’s changed the lives of 10s of 1000s of differently wired students, including mine at fusionacademy.com/tilt

David Marcus  00:26

Studies show that if you go to college after a gap year, you have a much better chance of a four year graduation rate. Now, you know already that different learners often need to just slow down a little bit of college and do it in five or six years. But they go in better equipped and better prepared and more mature for a different learner especially. I would argue that a year of maturation after high school is a huge, huge deal. It really can make a difference in executive functioning in study habits in socializing.

Debbie Reber  00:59

Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host, Debbie Reber. This week’s episode, we’re talking about what we often call in the neurodivergent space long runways for our emerging young adults, specifically, alternative paths for differently wired students who are graduating high school that may not either be ready for a typical college experience, or for whom college isn’t part of the plan. To talk about it. I brought college admissions coach Dave Marcus back to the show. You may have listened to our episode from a few years back where we talked about how the college admissions process and criteria was shifting as a result of the COVID pandemic. We do get a little update from Dave on the admissions landscape. But most of this episode is dedicated to considering other options for students, including a gap years apprenticeships, taking a few classes at a community college, and most importantly, slowing the whole launching process down to support kids who would really benefit from extra time to develop and grow, recover from mental health challenges, de stress and more. The spirit of this conversation is an important reminder that every student’s journey is different. And it’s so important that we don’t compare our kids’ paths to others, but rather get curious about what would most support their unique timeline and strengths. Before we dive in, here’s a little bit more about my guest. David Marcus has been a journalist, author and teacher and he covered education as a reporter for US News Magazine and Newsday in New York. He’s the author of a book about college admissions called Acceptance, and a book about struggling teens called What it Takes to pull Me Through. His passion is helping students and parents find balance and joy throughout the process of planning for what comes next after high school. Before we get to the conversation, till parenting is hosting a special three part live event with my friend Amy Lang, one of the most respected experts on talking to kids about sexuality. And it’s especially for parents and caregivers of differently wired kids ages nine to 12. Over the three week series, Amy will cover what neurodivergent kids need to know about puberty prep for parents of neurodivergent kids, and how to keep neurodivergent kids safer online. The classes will run for three consecutive Tuesdays starting next Tuesday, July 11. And all classes will be recorded in case you can’t attend live and will include tons of resources. To register, go to tilt parenting.com/sexed, that’s to parenting.com/sexed. Thanks so much. And now here is my conversation with David Marcus.

Debbie Reber  03:52

Hey, Dave, welcome back to the podcast. Thank you. I think the landscape has changed so much. And last time you were on the show, it was mid to pandemic or maybe early in the pandemic, how the college application process is different. But now we’re going to talk about the landscape in general. But before we get into all of that, if you wouldn’t mind just taking a few minutes and reintroducing yourself, tell us a little bit about the work that you do and why?

David Marcus  04:15

I am a college admissions coach and speaker on how to get into college and how to succeed in college. And to our point today, when you should consider an alternative to college for a year or two or longer. The way I got into it is I have a son who is now 27, who has some learning differences and an incredibly intuitive kid who is amazing with animals and people. He did go to college, but ultimately he decided to take a different path and work. I can talk about that later. But he’s thriving and that’s the important thing. So I’m very empathetic, very understanding I think to parents of families who have different learners. I’m still looking for the right phrase but You for years have been saying differently wired. I like that too. He’s differently wired in some ways, but he is really a success story in every way. So that’s one thing. Now the other thing is coincidentally, well, before he was born, I was an education journalist. I worked at the Miami Herald covering schools, I worked at a bunch of newspapers and US News Magazine, which is famous for its rankings of colleges, covering higher ed covering High School, covering transitions covering struggling teenagers, then in which actually was almost three years ago, amazingly, I wrote a book about struggling teens who went to a school that gave them therapy, they had internet addictions, they had drug addictions, they had all kinds of learning issues also. And they just were having trouble fitting in at home fitting at school, really powerful, wonderful kids. And I spent a year and a half or so being a volunteer teacher, but really writing a book about them. And the title is a little bit cumbersome, but it’s on my website, we can point people that way later, it’s called what it takes to pull me through. So that led to a book tour around the country. Then, a few years later, I was writing a series of stories for Newsday, on Long Island, about an amazing counselor at a school helping kids of all abilities get into college. And that led to a book, my second book, which we’re talking about today, in a lot of ways called Acceptance. And that in turn, sent me back to California to Florida to Georgia to New Hampshire, Vermont, etc. Um, a book tour talking about acceptance, talking about how to get into college, but also to our point today, how the landscape is changing, how the work is changing. So because I was doing pro bono free counseling for people, when I was on the road, people started asking me or for you to pay me to counsel their kids and their families about how to get it and how to succeed. Some of the kids are actually differently wired, a lot of them are, they have ADHD, they have dyslexia, they have some depression, sometimes comorbid things, really, really cool kids. So I do not claim to be an expert, I claim to be a parent who cares about this stuff, and who tries to help other people with it.

Debbie Reber  07:06

That’s a great introduction. And, yeah, listeners, definitely check out the show notes page. And I’ll have a link to our conversation that we had. Yeah, it was, I just looked it up. It was November of 2020. So almost three years ago, and a very different time in the world and what we were all going through. And we did talk a lot about specifically the college application process. But I’d love to know now that we’re I guess for all intents and purposes, through the pandemic, we could kind of say that, let’s just touch base on what is different, if anything in terms of what the process for applying and choosing and sorting that if a student is college bound, what has changed where we are now?

David Marcus  07:49

Well, it’s so interesting, I was talking to you, when that was really the first we’re just entering the first season of students applying to college during the pandemic, and it was all new and scary. And I was talking to you about SAT / ACT exams being canceled willy nilly around the country, being impossible, schedule them having to go to classes and zoom in high school. So usually my crystal ball is pretty terrible, frankly. But actually, I was quite right, I told you that college admissions would be up and it would be really different. And in fact, there’s so much different now for one thing, and this actually is really advantageous, I think, to differently wired kids often, the colleges are now test optional, or test blind or test flex test flexible in hundreds of cases. So you have a lot of kids who are definitely wired who do great on tests, but you also have kids who get nervous or who get tests who’d panic or who can’t sit still. So not only are the tests not necessary, so many colleges, but also the LSAT College Board, which gives us the LSAT, maybe coincidentally, but I don’t think this is really related to pandemic, it’s related to some pressure from parents. So for their change in the SATs, so this coming season, it’s going to go digital, and that’s a huge difference. And that’s a really good events to kids like the ones I work with. Instead of sitting for three hours, it’ll be two hours. Now if you get extra time, that’s fine, but it’s just less time of test taking. It will be digital, it’d be adaptive, which means it’ll serve respond to the questions you answer correctly and give you questions related and put you on a path. The reading passages will be more concise, and each one will have just one multiple choice question about it. And the students will have a wider access to all kinds of tools including they can bring a graphing calculator for the whole time. This is gonna be a big deal in the in the initial sort of rollout. They say they surveyed students who overwhelmingly found it less stressful, which again, speaks to differently wired kids. So I don’t want to go into all the reasons is Things are different. But I will tell you that colleges, I think, have done a sort of an experiment that they were forced into, as we talked about, there was sort of a shortage of overseas of international kids for a while during the pandemic, they were forced to sort of dig deeper into the ranks of Americans applying. And in fact, guess what, they found out that differently abled different learners could and did succeed in college.

Debbie Reber  10:23

That is super interesting. First of all, that’s really cool about the LSAT, the way the test is changing. And as someone whose child just took four AP tests, also from the College Board, I could see how that would have been a much smoother process if those tests were also digital instead of having to write code by hand. But I’m wondering, then, has it impacted how students are selecting schools and making decisions? And maybe that goes both ways? Are students getting more creative about the types of schools they might be looking at, and our schools getting more expansive in terms of the students that they’re considering bringing in?

David Marcus  11:01

Yes, and yes, and I should also remind people of what I said almost three years ago, which is my book, acceptance is about this counselor who works on pretty high pressure, Long Island, North Shore of Long Island, but he likes to say that, when it comes to applying to college, it’s not about the brand, it’s about the fit. And so that has not changed for me and for but I would say that the people I have worked with the people I’ve talked to who are applying are a little bit more open to colleges are kind of outside the favorite window decal, kind of 4050 schools, their instrument schools, I mean, there’s a variety of things that affect the parents and the families that you speak to. But not only those families, for example, because of COVID. Some families are actually more eager to have their kids within two or three hours of driving. I just talked to a mom whose kid is differently wired and he takes eight meds a day. So when she was looking at colleges, she said she wanted a two hour radius from home. Because every week she goes and drops off the meds and she puts him in pillboxes and sorts and for him, that’s a very reasonable thing, I think those are very reasonable things. But other families just don’t want their kids after a pandemic, they don’t want their kids flying six hours across the country. So a lot has changed. And I also am finding that some families are looking at smaller colleges, because they just feel that with the pandemic they were worried about, they started thinking about their kids sort of needing a little more hands-on interaction with staff and faculty. So all those things are playing into the decisions that your audience will make or will think about, even if they have just seventh or eighth graders, they’re going to start thinking about these issues. There’s no easy answer. There’s no right answer for everybody, obviously. But it is really forcing or rethinking things.

Debbie Reber  12:56

As you’re describing that, to me that sounds like a positive that we’re parents and families are just looking more broadly at schools, instead of maybe just honing in and getting their heart set on these if they have a high achieving kid really going for these big ones. And then we know the admittance rates are so tiny for those. So this sounds like a positive change. I would love to pivot our conversation and talk about some alternative pas for students who aren’t either going directly to college or may not go to college at all. And we’ll do that as soon as we get back from this quick break.

Debbie Reber  13:32

Every student is so different, but traditional schools treat them all the same. That’s why my teen attends Fusion Academy, the world’s most personalized school. Fusion is especially great for differently wired students, their one to one classrooms, match your student’s unique pace and preferences so they can learn better, dive deeper and never get left behind. Fusion has 80 convenient campus locations across the country for grades six through 12. Along with a fully online campus fusion global Academy, Fusion has been a game changer for my family, why not experience the world’s most personalized school for yourself. Fusion is now enrolling for both summer catch up courses and full Fall Enrollment sign up for a free one to one trial session at Fusion academy.com/tilt. That’s fusion academy.com/tilt.

Debbie Reber  14:23

So I’d like to talk about alternative paths, again, whether that’s a delay of college or other roads that our kids can go down. And I’d like to start by talking about gap years. I’ve never actually done a show about gap years. My kid is taking a gap year. I would love to know just as a baseline to start. Why do you think gap years can be such a good option for some students?

David Marcus  14:46

Okay, well, you happen to be speaking to one of my favorite subjects. We have decided in this country that we have to be in lockstep, right? You go through 12th grade and then you go into four years of college and then you go into a job. But in many other countries there’s a gap year in Israel. Well, there’s a year, there’s a couple years of service in Australia, people will go off and travel around the world. If I was in charge of US policy, I would make it mandatory for every student, everybody who is 18, or graduated from high school to do a year of service, but I am not in charge. So I will tell you, it’s a great thing, especially for different learners, I think, to either pick up social cues or to work on some academic area, or to work on learning a language if they’re capable of learning language. And some of them don’t like doing that, I get that. But I think it’s so important. And then studies show that if you go to college after a gap year, you have a much better chance of a four year graduation rate. Now, you know, already that different learners often need to just slow down a little bit of college and do it in five or six years. But they go in better equipped and better prepared and more mature for a different learner especially, I would argue that a year of maturation after high school is a huge, huge deal. It really can make a difference in executive functioning and study habits in socializing, as I said, so first of all, we’ll talk about that, then we’ll talk about not college, I will say that, I find it really reassuring that a bunch of students I’ve been working with are thinking about gap years because the pandemic really threw them for a loop. So I tell people that families should really have a plan. The Gap Year consists of traveling it can consist of working in a restaurant, it can consist of taking courses at community college, but it definitely needs an intellectual component at some of the challenges the students in creative ways of thinking or learning ways. I will also tell you, the different learners I’ve worked with, say to me, you keep saying travel is a great thing. But I can’t spend the semester in some other country I can’t because, again, because they have medicines, they have routines, if I realize that there’s no one size fits all gap year, especially for different learners. But a year of growing up doing something of giving back and doing service, which we all should be doing anyway, in this country at age 18 is a great thing. Then when you apply to college, you have a better story to tell. First of all, you can apply as a 12th grader. But if you do, and you don’t get to write plays, or you wait, then you’re telling them, Hey, I’m applying, and by the way, this year, I decided that I’m going to be working at a nursing home and getting no older people and telling their stories. This year, I’m going to be tutoring little kids this year, whatever it may be, I’m gonna be holding a job of being responsible and showing up at six in the morning and working, volunteering, whatever it may be taking courses at the local community colleges, I said. So I think that’s a fantastic thing. And there are many gap programs. If you google them, you don’t have to invent your own gap year. But you can and a community college or local, even a four year college is a great way to start by taking some courses and a job is a great thing for everybody to have happens to be that a lot of places are paying 25 bucks an hour, which isn’t bad for an 18 year old and looking for kids.

Debbie Reber  17:59

Oh, my gosh, if I had gotten paid $25 an hour at the movie theater, I think I made $3.85. And I thought I am raking it in right now. I want to talk about gap years a little more. And by the way, listeners, I’ll include a link to the gap year Association. And that’s a website where you can just search for a ton of different gap year programs. You talked about that there should be something intellectual. I also think a lot of our kids may be burned out. They may be struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. And we’ll need some time to kind of decompress. So say there’s a student who wants to spend that time exploring something that has nothing to do with what they might go to college, but it’s very calming and regulating. Is there a benefit to that? I want to give listeners a sense of there are just so many ways this could look.

David Marcus  18:47

Yes, I mean, but not when I say somebody’s intellectual too. I’ve sort of assigned students okay, you’re taking a gap year. I want you to read one short book a month . If you’re not a good reader, I want you to watch one documentary a week, whatever it may be. So there’s some kind of intellectual component. But look, after three years of pandemic forget about different learners are not different. There is an epidemic among students of anxiety of depression of need for social adjustment, if you will, this could be a blessing for a lot of students and it doesn’t have to do with how they learn so it’s fine if they if they need to just decompress there’s nothing in Marathon you don’t want them to go to college don’t want them to go there if they’re anxiety ridden. Now that’s not to say a year will solve it but a year with therapy, a year with kind of exercise, a year with kind of thinking things over a year with just getting the chance to rebound could be a real life changer for kids. And Debbie I want to be honest and say that one of the biggest problems I’ve seen for this one of the biggest obstacles is what I call the gossipy JLo and competitive Charlie which is your neighbor somebody you knew back when who says well my kids going to to Ivy League program run by two Ivy League’s and it’s gonna get a sub such degree and we We are so because of social media. And frankly, because of some parents who don’t know how to be sensitive, they have to tell you how great their kid is, what an achiever their kid is and how their kids started reading when the kid was one year old. Well, you know what, some of us have kids who did not do that, who have incredible strengths, but they might be more hidden strengths. And so the big problem is these braggart parents, and these parents who are boasting these parents who are sort of making us feel like we’re doing something wrong, there’s no right way to educate. Education is a continuum. It starts when the kid is learning to talk and before, and it goes right through college and grad school or through alternative paths as the case is for my kid. So I really feel strongly I bumped into one of these parents who had to tell me so much about the achievements of this kid, and all right, just relax and enjoy it. But don’t tell me not to imply that my kids aren’t as good because that’s nonsense. So when we get over that, you know, comparing to the Joneses, or the competitive Charlie’s, as I say, we can really start thinking about what’s best for our kids, not what society thinks is best for our kids.

Debbie Reber  20:58

Yeah, no, I appreciate you bringing that up. I call that the Compare and despair cycle. And it’s real. And I think social media, especially as we’re recording this, is coming up to graduation. So there are pictures of graduation or award ceremonies for students and all the college decision day posts. And I know that can be very triggering for a lot of families who feel like that I’m not going to be able to participate in this in the same way. Or they’re getting questions about what’s happening with your child, and that can be really uncomfortable. So I really appreciate you bringing that up. Anything else on gap years before we pivot to talking about some other options?

David Marcus  21:36

I want to pivot because I think that the experience of my own kid is actually illustrative of what is out there. We’ve sort of come up with this idea in the last few decades in this country that college is the only path. Right now, if you look at salaries in the New York area, and the LA area for HVAC air conditioning people, tech people, people fixing cars, we’re talking about 100, grand, 125 150, grand, whatever it may be really generous salaries and bonuses, nurses to people don’t need bachelor’s degrees, who maybe need an associate degree, maybe just need a certification. There are so many people out there who are succeeding in other ways. And I again, I’ll point to my son, he’s, he owns his own business. He is a dog handler. That means he takes dogs to shows around the country for his clients. Now when I talked to you before he was working for someone else who’s apprenticing for someone else, but since then he’s branched out and started his business. So I know that differently, wired kids are often really off the charts smart. So I don’t want to generalize, because a lot of them go to college and Excel. But some of them have social issues that make four year college different. Some of them have issues about learning a language or doing reading that limit the number of colleges they can apply to or make them want to do something different for a while. And that’s okay.

Debbie Reber  22:52

Let’s talk about community college for a little bit. Because I think there’s this idea that even if you take a gap year, then you’re still looking at a four year degree and at least here in the US, you go away and you live in the dorms. And it’s not the case in a lot of other countries, in European countries, in the UK. But that’s certainly the primary expectation or vision here. But community college can be just a great option for students who aren’t ready for that level of independence or may want to dip their toe in the water and explore things. So can you talk about why community college can be so beneficial for neurodivergent kids, as well as what that actually looks like as a starting point and transferring and how that might evolve down the road?

David Marcus  23:34

Sure. And I will say that first. And most important, for a lot of the students I’ve worked with who are neurodivergent high school was not a fun time, it was a really taxing time socially, or academically or just in terms of trying to do sports. And so Community College gives them a fresh start. And it’s a chance to take different courses. So if you really think you want to go into engineering, you try that, but it’s not, there’s no real consequences for it, nobody’s gonna see your record, if it doesn’t work out. If you fail, a course doesn’t work out, you wipe it off the record, if you want to do some remedial stuff and get to be a better writer, you can do that. If you want to take photography and try commercial photography or all kinds of digital programs, you can do that. So I really recommend that as a chance to dip in and try things. Now. If you have an idea what college you want to go to. And let’s say it’s an in State College and a state college these days are much better at articulation and agreeing that a community college course will count for credit at a state college. You can check that out on the website, you could ask them but if it’s either thinking about a private college out of state or private college, it doesn’t have any articulation agreements with this community college. You can ask them to here’s a course I’m thinking about taking if I ended up at this college a year or two from now. We’ll discount it doesn’t always and that’s that’s okay because Community College is inexpensive, and you can certainly find a college that will honor Me Many, many of the community college courses you take California, North Carolina, Florida, I believe they’re getting much better at having articulation agreements between the two year and the four year colleges. And in fact, the two year colleges are changing now they’re starting to offer four year degrees. Sometimes. It’s a misconception in this country that most Americans, young Americans go to a four year residential college where they live, it’s actually not that mainstream. It’s just sort of in our neighborhoods in Brooklyn and places like that, we just assume that’s the norm. So I think a community college is a great idea. But I will also say there’s Khan Academy, which has free courses, you can really challenge yourself, there’s a lot of private colleges and state colleges that are now doing online courses. So I just think it’s a great idea to try something like that, it can really make a difference. I mean, there’s Mansfield Hall, which has agreements with universities in Vermont, and Wisconsin, where you can take courses or see how that goes and a gap time. So there are lots of ways to push yourself and try and experiment and see if you’re college ready. Because not everybody is three months after high school.

Debbie Reber  26:07

I really liked that. And I think it can be such a great option, especially again, socially, some students, the thought of living in a dorm or starting over without friends can be overwhelming if you’re on a college campus like that. So this is a way to kind of experiment, perhaps stay at home, and then have that long runway that so many of our kids need.

David Marcus  26:29

Yeah, or I mean, you do a Prince Harry, right, like Prince Harry went to Africa to live with a family friend, or you go to live with a relative somewhere and try that like living in a new place being off on your own. Look, I mean, a lot of what we’re trying to do for differently wired kids, frankly, is let them get their wings and start to soar. And so part of that sometimes means venturing away from home, either you’re in the suburbs and that kid starts going to the city for a job or for classes, or living with somebody in a different place. And then it sometimes takes them a while. It’s okay, they need time. But if you’re doing that, on top of the pressure of the first year of a four year college, that’s a lot to expect.

Debbie Reber  27:09

You mentioned apprenticeship before. So I’d love to know, for students or for parents who are listening, students who are not looking at a formal gap year are not applying to colleges or not considering Community College, and kind of just need a big break and time to get their nervous systems more regulated. And to figure out what do I want to do? What are some other options and maybe talk about what an apprenticeship is and some other things that we could be helping our kids look into?

David Marcus  27:40

Sure. So I mentioned that first in the context of my son. So in that case, I was out as a journalist roving the country, I met an amazing woman who had a dog handler on her property. And I arranged for my son to be an apprentice now. That’s actually in those days, that was a few years ago. That’s a nice way of saying he was cheap, unpaid labor. But this woman who he worked for was fantastic. She really taught him, you know, how to give medicine to dogs and groom dogs and show dogs and all that stuff. So it was amazing. Through context, through a union, through a community college through a work training programs, there are all kinds of things if you look up apprenticeships, this is very common in Germany, it’s actually the route in the US, I think it’s becoming more common because there’s so many trades or so many businesses that need somebody who has to learn the ropes. And these days, they are not unpaid labor, like my kid is usually. There’s some kind of stipend, there’s some kind of hourly pay, because the courts have cracked down on all these unpaid internships. I happen to think that that was a great thing for my kid, but it would have been better if he had gotten some spending money out of it. So it’s a fantastic way to learn. And as I said, on your show, I’ll say this again, three years ago, I said this, if you as a 17, eight year old, a high school senior or after that if you try a field in architecture, or engineering or nursing, and you dabble in it, you take a course or you do an apprenticeship and you find you don’t like it after six months? Well, that’s just about as valuable as finding something you do. Like it’s okay, not to understand what a field is like when you’re 17 or 18 or 19. And so you try and you do it. But there are all kinds of ways to experiment and more power to you if you find that you don’t like it. So I was on a volunteer board of a nonprofit to help high school seniors get internships and apprenticeships. And we have found other groups like that around the country. So sometimes those can actually start in senior year of high school or a group like that can point you to what to do after graduation. And that’s a powerful thing. And I really frankly, would rather that my kids didn’t run off to college because then they have a better idea of what they really want to study then they have a year or so of being more mature, which is not a bad thing in the society. And as you said, they’ve gone through a stressful time exacerbated by the pandemic and everything else.

Debbie Reber  30:01

Yeah, absolutely. I think time benefits everybody. I hope that this is a shift that we’re seeing generally with students that we just kind of get off this treadmill that we just think things have to look a certain way. I think back to my own university. I was 17 when I went to college, and believe me, I wanted to leave home like I was ready to get out of the house. But I was a disaster on so many levels. I had no executive function skills. I didn’t know how to study, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I was not very happy. I kept wanting to transfer it. I wanted to take a year off and go waitress and ski. And I didn’t even know how to ski. But it sounded good at the time. But it wasn’t for me until I went to graduate school. I was working full time, and went to grad school at night. And I was in my mid 20s. And I was like, Oh, this is what learning is like. So I think just that reminder of our kids having a really long runway, and it might take them a while. And that’s totally fine. It’s okay for them to have the space to figure out what do I like to do or what don’t I like to do can be, as you said, an even more powerful motivator sometimes.

David Marcus  31:08

Now I’d mentioned a couple of things I had, I’ve recommended a couple students who I just felt were they just weren’t ready for college did they do a PG or postgraduate so you go to a boarding school, and you do a year now that can be expensive, but they do have scholarships sometimes, then you can really study like a really cool magazine writings class or a class on filmmaking. Or you could do it if you’ve sort of gotten your requirements out of the way for high school, but you’re not ready for college. And then you can see what you like. Now, again, that’s not for everybody. I did not grow up in the world of boarding schools. But I ended up being a teacher at Deerfield Academy, when I was working on one of my books, and I was blown away by this world that I didn’t know about. And some of my favorite students were PG kids there, frankly, to get better and bulkier and more ready for sports usually, or their parents felt that they needed a year to mature. They were 19. They were not kids. They’re fun to teach. And they really approach learning with it a little bit, I’d say more maturity and more centered attitude. That’s a good thing. But we have to sort of break away from what the norm is because the norm is changing.

Debbie Reber  32:08

I’ve never heard of a postgraduate year. So that’s super interesting, not part of my world either. I know that a lot of schools in the UK have something called a foundation year for students who are coming especially from the US to have that time to be better prepared to be a college student. Before we kind of wrap up, I’m just wondering, is there anything else that we haven’t touched upon that you would really want listeners to know if they have students who are in high school who are creeping closer to graduation and they’re feeling really overwhelmed about how to support their child’s journey and whatever way it looks like?

David Marcus  32:42

Sure I will mention a few things that I’ve been looking into. And as I said, I was at US News, crisscrossing the country going to college campuses, I had a couple fellowships at colleges and teaching time at colleges. And so I have been impressed by the fact that a lot of colleges now are really looking at how they can help kids who are differently wired learners. If I recall correctly, this changes over time. But Hofstra and Adelphi on Long Island, Maris in Poughkeepsie, upstate New York, University of Vermont, actually Muhlenberg outside of Philadelphia, these schools all have, I believe that it does change. But I’ve heard from parents and I’ve seen on visits over the years, have learning centers have helped centers, writing centers have places where neurodivergent, or different learners can really get some one-on-one help. And frankly, if you’re gonna send a kid to college, who’s wired differently, you might have a really, really serious conversation with a kid and with your own kind of financial planning, because I have found that sometimes it takes them five years to graduate six years to graduate, they cannot start with a full load of courses, especially freshman year, and that’s okay. But it has implications for how much you pay in tuition and housing. I’ve also found that some of the families that I work with, besides paying extra sometimes for a kind of a learning center, a support center, they also end up getting executive functioning coaches, that won’t surprise your parents. But again, when you’re doing the calculations of a college, you got to figure that there might be the extra cost of that. It’s just how it is. And also I would say parents look, so a lot of us are sort of hovercraft parents, right. We’ve been behind our kid or above our kid, like, you know, managing in high school, you’re not going to have a 504 plan, you’re not going to have IEP, if your student does go to college. It’s a scary thing because the student has an advocate. And you you have to find that role, which is really difficult. I know this as a parent, I know this as someone who’s worked with these amazing kids, you have to find a way that you mom, dad, whoever and uncle, Grandpa, you are not contacting professors. So that means that you’re the student who has some kind of support specialist, some kind of person on campus, some kind of learning expert or executive function. because the student has to learn to talk to a professor or work with the other professional, you should not be contacting the administration and the professors. That’s the job of your student or the person is trained to work with your student. And that means letting go. So I’ve actually found, frankly, that well, the adjustment for different learners can be trying and taxing and an adventure for the student after high school. It’s just as much an adventure for the parent and a good adventure and also not always an easy adventure. So I but I will close by saying, I have worked with kids who are divergent, and they’re so powerful. Listen, if we can spread the word that people have to respect our kids, people should not demean our kids and tell us how successful their own kids are. If our kids can be the voice of that the next generation on college or in internships, or apprenticeships or jobs, then we’re doing something right.

Debbie Reber  35:51

Yes, I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment, I just want to say to listeners, I’m going to include a link to that there’s a website called College Autism Spectrum also that shares colleges that have programs specifically for autistic students. And I agree it is pretty exciting to see more colleges having these learning centers often at an additional cost, but it’s still good to know that they exist. And I’m also just going to throw out Elizabeth Hamblet’s name, she’s been on the show twice before. And her new book is called Seven Steps to College success. And her focus is on helping neurodivergent learners make that transition smoothly and understand how to navigate the special education supports that colleges might have. Dave, this has been a super interesting conversation. I really appreciate everything that you’ve shared today. And I think this is just hopeful and insightful for parents who are feeling really daunted by a path that may not be so clear. So thank you for that. Is there a place that you’d like to direct listeners to check out your work?

David Marcus  36:54

My website is davemarcus.com, not David. But davemarcus.com. It’s my name, essentially. And I have some articles that I’ve written about these topics. There are some adventures of my own as a parent of a young man who’s a different learner. And I’m in the process of learning. As I said, I don’t claim to be the expert on these topics. But I do try to put things on the website. It’s a little bit outdated. I’m going to refresh it. But davemarcus.com and you know, I love hearing from parents and I love working with parents. And I also tried to do the right thing and do volunteering with parents who are going through a hard time. It’s been a really tough three years for all of us. I’ve seen these kids thrive in the workplace, in families on college campuses. And that’s that, to me it makes it all worthwhile when you’re going through things as a parent with a 15 year old or 14 year old or 12 year old who’s having some reading issues or some studying issues, executive function issues, to see them grow up and do their thing. This has been amazing for me.

Debbie Reber  37:59

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