How My Neurodiverse Student Got Into Graduate School

Young man writing a math problem on a white board

How My Neurodiverse Student Got Into Graduate School

Published July 10, 2023

Young man writing a math problem on a white board

A parent of a neurodiverse student who started in an autism support classroom shares how her student got into grad school.

This story was first published in our Paying for College 101 Facebook community. It’s been edited for clarity and flow. The name of the member has been omitted to protect their privacy.

A parent in our Paying for College Facebook Group wrote a post about how her autistic son is now getting his doctorate in statistics. 

Why did she share the post?

“I thought I’d tell you a success story,” she said.

Neurodiverse Student 

My son had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) from the time he was four years old until he graduated. He started in an autism classroom with an aide and eventually mainstreamed to general education in second grade. His academics were excellent, and he loved school. 

Socially, it was tough because he didn’t know how to interact well. Parents of neurodivergent kids understand. 

Finding the Right Fit 

We knew college was always an option; the key was finding the right academic and social fit. He decided on a small liberal arts college that was academically exceptional and attracted introverted students. He thrived there because he was in his element. The school was small enough so professors knew his name and invited him to participate in research and to become a departmental tutor. He made really strong friendships for the first time in his life. 

When it was time to apply to graduate school, doors really opened. He’s in his third year now at a very well-known school, and the opportunities continue to open up. He had papers accepted to two conferences this year and was invited to speak at a third. 

Academic Success 

The undergraduate school was a strong fit because it was a school that meets financial need, and we were a single-family income. We would have aimed for a high merit school if it were the other way around. He had fantastic stats but not all the bells and whistles. His essay leaned toward social justice, and I think the colleges that accepted him appreciated that. We were able to cash-flow because of the fantastic financial aid. Graduate school is free, plus a stipend. My son received his bachelor’s degree in math and is now getting his doctorate in statistics.

Bottom Line 

If I had known when he was four what the future would hold 20 years later, I never would have believed it. So, parents of neurodivergent students, hang on tight. It’s a wild, fantastic ride.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Your College Student May Need Help After Graduation: Are You Prepared?

How to Pick a College That Loves You Back

I Watched My Average Student Get Into College Against All Odds




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