Welcome to my first post in my new college preparedness series! In this series, I will discuss how to start the semester off right, with all of the tools and tricks I have learned. Topics covered will include scheduling, navigation, textbooks, and more. If you have a specific request for a topic, please comment below and I will do my best to accommodate your request. Let’s begin with scheduling!
When my friend had to sign up for her first semester of college classes, she came to me saying that there were only 7 am classes available and she wasn’t sure how she would be able to start her day that early, and that several of her classes met on the same day, at the same time. I then explained that she was just looking at the first class listing, and that there were other times and days available for her to take her 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 her that didn’t involve classes so early in the morning. Here are a few tips I shared with her about scheduling that can help you get the perfect schedule for the next semester.
1. 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 the office of disabilities.
2. 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
3. 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.
4. Check 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.
5. 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. I’m working on creating a section on my website that describes all the devices I use so that in the future I can just send my professors the link to my blog, and other students can use links that describe what the technology is used for.
6. 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!
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
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. 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.