College and Career Planning in Spite of Learning Challenges


 by Shari Nelson


We all have learning challenges to some degree. Each challenge has a purpose and a plan behind it.  Our mission is to discover the purpose and how it propels us towards our calling in life.

The specific calling on all our lives is born out of these challenges, our strengths, our giftings, and our life experiences. Sometimes it takes years to discover, but each step in the process is purposeful and meaningful. 

The first step in college and career planning is to know yourself.  What are you passionate about?  Who are the people in your life that you are empathetic towards and love to serve? What activities that engage with others, intentional or not, fill your heart and give you joy? What are your strengths and aptitudes? Having this self-awareness can then lead you to discover possible career paths.

The next step is career research. One of my favorite resources is the Occupational Outlook Handbook. You can search for almost any career path and find its description, median pay, education requirements, growth rate, and on-the-job training. Some profiles even have videos. As you discover your main career interest clusters, then you can begin researching the education and on-the-job training necessary for entry-level positions. 

This next step is critical; educational choices. Most students with learning challenges want to jump ship at this point because of past struggles and current hurdles in education. Do not lose hope! There are many paths and opportunities to assist you in following after that calling on your life. Depending on your specific challenges and the assistance you need to overcome them, I suggest the following considerations:

  • Research services from your state’s Workforce Solutions or Commission’s website. Here in Texas, they offer amazing opportunities for job training, resume building, work apprenticeships, on-the-job mentoring, and post-secondary planning for our youth. Once our students become 18 years of age, the services and opportunities grow.
  • Research the numerous certification programs offered at your local community or junior college. These are excellent stepping stones towards your ultimate goal. Usually one certification is sufficient for gaining excellent employment, and then you can continue to add the next level if you desire. Certifications are usually one to two semesters. You can search for Certifications or Work Force Training on a college’s website to find amazing opportunities.
  • If testing causes you anxiety, many of these certifications only require the taking of the entrance tests (TSIA2/Accuplacer), not a specific score to take classes. There are even accommodations written into the TSIA2, as well as additional accommodations that can be obtained through the college.
  • Every school: technical, 2-year, and 4-year has a department that offers a variety of programs, tutoring and assistance for almost any learning challenge. The level of assistance and requirements of documentation will vary from school to school. It is worthy of your time to research, ask questions, and advocate for yourself.
  • Research the amazing 4-year universities across our nation that were established specifically for students who are learning and socially challenged and who desire continuing their education in a college setting. They have many programs in place to assist you in every area of college life. You can search sites like, US News and World Report, and College Board to research schools that meet your needs.

For every life, there is a plan, a purpose, and a calling. Again, our mission is to discover them through our life’s experiences. Each challenge, hurdle, failure, and, especially, our success makes us stronger and propels us towards our calling. My prayer for you is that you embrace who you are, go after your calling, and serve and bless others along the way.



Shari Nelson had the privilege of home educating her 4 children for over 20 years using a variety of curriculums and homeschooling opportunities. 

Shari and her sister, Liz Hach, opened the Christian Educators Resource Center (CERC) in 2006, serving as Director of Education until 2010. During this time, she taught co-operative classes to homeschoolers, including Bible, math, language arts and science. Shari also served on the Board of Directors at CERC in various positions and was able to fulfill her calling by encouraging home educators. 

Through seminars and one-on-one assistance, Shari Nelson, CCC Toolbox, advises families how to fulfill academic high school and graduation requirements, to find resources that help students succeed regardless of learning challenge, and to explore students’ college, career, and calling in preparation for their post-secondary plans.



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