When my friend had to sign up for her first semester of college classes, they came to me saying that there were only 7 am classes available and they weren’t sure how they would be able to start her day that early, and that several classes met on the same day, at the same time. I then explained that they was just looking at the first class listing, and that there were other times and days available for them to take the required classes, as it would be insane for there to only be one time that a foundation class would be offered. After that, we came up with a nearly perfect schedule for them that didn’t involve classes so early in the morning. Here are a few tips I shared with them about scheduling that can help you get the perfect schedule for the next semester.
Know when you can register
Many colleges have priority registration for students in honors college, specific learning groups, and students who receive classroom services through Disability Services. This can be anywhere from 24 hours ahead of the other students to up to a week beforehand. Read more about setting up a disability services file here.
Know when your vision is best
For me, I do best in classes offered mid-morning or after lunchtime, as my eye fatigue tends to be lower and I am less likely to get a migraine. If you know you aren’t going to have enough energy to make it to a 4:30 class, then don’t sign up for one and expect you will suddenly have enough energy
Check where buildings are located
If a class building is in an area that is not easily accessible, see if there is an alternative location where the class is held. For example, I have trouble walking down a steep hill to a building on my campus, and one of my classes primarily takes place there. I signed up for a less popular section later in the day at a building right next to my dorm to reduce the risk of me falling as I try to navigate. Read more about selecting housing here.
Research professors on a website like RateMyProfessor
I always write reviews at the end of the semester for my teachers, and other students do the same. Check to make sure the reviews are for your specific class (for example, Geology 101), especially when it comes to negative reviews. Some adjunct professors may not have reviews available, so talking to other students is helpful too.
Get contact information for professors
I usually look up their names in our school email database right after I sign up and tell them that I receive accommodations and use assistive technology. If a professor seems tentative about having a low vision student and/or assistive technology in the classroom, you can switch to a different professor. Often times, I send them links to posts on my blog and encourage them to read them in advance, and almost every one of my professors has read the posts in advance. Read my post on explaining accommodations here.
Check wifi connectivity in the classrooms in advance
If you rely on internet based services for your accommodations, test the wifi in the building, or even better, the classroom, prior to the first day of school. Make sure it doesn’t drop randomly! Read more about finding the best seat in class here.
Schedule classes in the same building back to back
I did this second semester of freshman year and it worked out beautifully. I had an hour and a half between classes where I would eat and read material, or when the weather got nicer, I would go for a walk to get food and fresh air.
Don’t leave yourself ten minutes to race across campus to your next class
I tried this once and wound up switching classes because not only was I super stressed, but I also nearly face planted because of the icy conditions. It’s okay if you attend a small campus or if the building is close by, but trying to run nearly a mile with a blindness cane is not good. Read more about how to navigate campus here.
If possible, schedule one day during the week when you don’t have class
For me, this day is usually Friday, and I use the day to meet with professors, write, go to appointments, or just get off campus for a bit. It helps to have a day where you know you can schedule something and not suddenly have a class conflict. Learn how to navigate the university and city bus system here.
Once you’re all scheduled, try and find the syllabus.
I just googled my class name, teacher name, and then type “site:” along with my college website. You can usually find a fairly recent syllabus along with textbook information. Some departments have copies of all of the class syllabi on their website.
Remember, you are no longer in high school. You can drop or add a class with a few clicks, find out lots of information about professors, and you don’t have to put up with professors who don’t follow accommodations- read more things that surprised me about college here. With these tips, I have had amazing success with having professors not only accept my assistive technology, but have me thriving so much in my classes that they forget I’m a student with low vision.