One of the most frequently asked questions I get is about how I figured out what college would be the best fit for me- a topic I originally talked about in my post “Ten Questions To Ask When Choosing A College.” However, that post is more targeted at students who are looking for colleges to apply to, not trying to figure out how to narrow down a decision after a student has been accepted to other schools. Today, I will be sharing ten more questions to ask when choosing a college, and how I confirmed my dream school would be the best match for me.
Are accessible materials readily available, or would I have to make my own?
Since I need large print in order to read materials, it’s important to me that my textbooks and other academic materials are in a digital format so that I can increase the print size or use text-to-speech in order to read. In order to figure out if I would be able to get accessible content on my own, I looked up a sample schedule for first-year students and then syllabi for the different classes to see if the textbooks could be rented/purchased in a digital format, and if assignments would be posted online. For the classes that did not have digital textbooks, I would be able to make a request to the school assistive technology office so that I would have a digital copy that I could read at no additional cost.
- What To Know About College Assistive Technology Specialists
- How To Request Accessible Textbooks In College
What is campus security like- how would I get help in an emergency?
At my college, campus security is considered a branch of the local police department and has its own dispatch system. While students can call campus security for security escorts or other services, getting arrested by campus security is equivalent to getting arrested by the city police.
For students who may be more likely to have medical emergencies (i.e students with a chronic illness), it’s helpful to research in advance how medical emergencies are handled on campus as well. This can include questions like:
- Where is the nearest hospital?
- Is calling campus dispatch the same as calling 911?
- Can I call campus dispatch on a voice assistant like the Amazon Alexa?
- Is there an app I can download from campus security?
- Blindness Canes and Campus Security: Navigating College Campuses
- How To Handle Medical Emergencies In A Dorm
Are there other major/minors that I find interesting?
When I started college, I planned to major in applied computer science with a special interest in software engineering and assistive technologies. While I still love assistive technology and received a minor in it, I ended up changing my major to data science so that I could explore how emerging technologies could be used to help people with disabilities, and to learn more about accessible data visualizations and modeling. I recommend looking at 2 or 3 different majors and/or minors at each college in case the student changes their mind in the future about what they want to study.
What are their virtual classes like?
A lot of colleges have expanded their virtual class offerings in recent years, and I took over half of my classes virtually while in college, even while I lived on campus. I have an entire post on choosing virtual classes linked below that can help students learn more about these types of classes.
- Ten Questions To Ask When Choosing A Virtual Class
- Ten Tech Skills Every College Student Needs For Virtual Classes
How is the food on campus?
For students who plan to live on campus, this is a question best answered in person. While I can’t say that every meal at my college was off-the-wall spectacular, I can say that I never got sick from eating dining hall food and I was able to independently navigate the dining hall and other food places on campus. I especially appreciated that there was always at least one place open no matter what time of the day/night it was, and items that focused on fresh fruits, vegetables, and fun spices were always my favorite!
- Blindness Canes and Dining Halls: Navigating College Campuses
- Assistive Technology Products for the Dining Hall
Is the campus continuing to grow?
While people jokingly say that my college’s slogan is “where construction is tradition,” it’s important that the college is continuing to invest in infrastructure and is growing to meet student needs. In the four years I lived on campus, many awesome resources opened including a makerspace, computer labs that featured lots of current technology, and easy-to-navigate walkways.
Does the college help students get internships or other career assistance?
I was thrilled to learn that my college has a ton of resources for helping students get internships and jobs before and after graduation, and that there are lots of opportunities for students to learn about various companies and organizations that they can work for. While my college does not have a ton of name recognition compared to other schools, I was able to secure a prestigious internship at a well-known tech company after they learned about the types of classes I had been taking and how I had worked with professors to learn in-depth about topics that I was passionate about.
Are there activities I can get involved in?
I’ve played clarinet for over ten years now, so I was instantly drawn towards joining the pep band at my college, in addition to other student organizations that would allow me to learn more about policy, connect me with other students with vision loss, and allow me to meet some of my best friends. While I didn’t choose my college specifically for the band program or other organizations, I was thrilled to find student organizations that I would be able to get involved with.
In a different example, my brother does not care for extracurricular activities as much but learned about a unique study-elsewhere program that allowed him to study at a federal research lab for a semester and learn more about wildlife. I highly recommend checking out opportunities like these as well, as being part of this program was amazing for him!
- Playing in GMU Green Machine Pep Band With Vision Impairment
- Seeing The Future: My Feature in 10 Ideas
Can I get a Disability Services file before the first day of class?
Some colleges take a proactive approach to supporting students with disabilities, encouraging them to have accommodations in place for professors to follow, and stepping in when a student’s accommodations are not followed to help them resolve the issue. Other colleges take a reactive approach, where students create their own informal accommodations and share them with the professor, and they step in when the student has a problem.
My college takes a proactive approach, and I was able to receive accommodations prior to the first day of classes. Of course, students can get accommodations at any time, but students do not have to find themselves in situations related to academic ableism before they will get accommodations.
What academic supports are available for students?
Are there places where students can get help with their writing or with math? What about departmental tutoring? Does the college offer mental health resources to help students feel happy and safe where they are? These are all great questions to research on departmental websites or through campus resources like Disability Services or the psychological services office. While this was not a service I used at my college, I took advantage of free tutoring at the community college where I had my math classes and it helped me tremendously with my various calculus classes.
Summary of ten more questions to ask when choosing a college
- Are accessible materials readily available, or would I have to make my own?
- What is campus security like- how would I get help in an emergency?
- Are there other major/minors that I find interesting?
- What are their virtual classes like?
- How is the food on campus?
- Is the campus continuing to grow?
- Does the college help students get internships or other career assistance?
- Are there activities I can get involved in?
- Can I get a Disability Services file before the first day of class?
- What academic supports are available for students?