After a student makes the decision that they want to attend college, their next step is figuring out how to find colleges to apply to, and where to get recommendations for colleges that will be able to follow their disability accommodations. While I knew that I wanted to attend a college in my home state (commonwealth) of Virginia, there were dozens of options for me to choose from and I wasn’t sure which college would be the best fit for me. Here are my tips for people to talk to when trying to figure out how to find colleges to apply to, and the people that I had talked to.
State department for the blind and visually impaired
Many state departments for the blind and visually impaired keep an unofficial list of state colleges that their clients have attended and have had great success with. When I began receiving vocational rehabilitation services to help with college transition, my case manager showed me their list of the top colleges that their students have graduated from and where they had the best luck receiving accommodations, and I was thrilled to find that my top choice college was at the top of their list!
- Seven Benefits of Having a Case With State Departments for Vision Impairment
- Vocational Rehabilitation for Students With Vision Impairments
Between band, extracurricular activities, and the siblings of my friends, I had access to a lot of friends that are older than me who could tell me more about their colleges and answer questions that staff members may not have necessarily known. When I told one of my best friends that I was thinking of going to their college, they invited me up for a visit and gave me a tour of “everything that I would need to see”- which included stops at various food places, their freshman dorm, various classroom buildings, and other popular student places. Now that I am the “older friend” for many wonderful students, I love talking about my college and sharing my own experiences as a student with low vision!
- Blindness Canes and College Tours: Navigating College Campuses
- Places Every Visually Impaired Student Should Visit On College Tours
- Why I Love Having Friends With The Same Condition
Alumni from the program
Many of my friends who majored in things related to medicine, education, science, and engineering were able to connect with alumni from their program of interest either through social media or in-person events, and it was valuable to hear from them about how the degree program had prepared them for their career. I did not have the opportunity to talk to any alumni before my first year of college, but it was helpful for me to hear from other people who studied topics similar to what I was interested in, so that I could look at a degree program and see if it would prepare me for success.
My guidance counselor talked to my brother and I about the degree programs that we planned to study in advance, and was able to tell us more about students from our high school that had studied the same (or similar) degrees. For me, it was helpful to hear about other students they had in the past with disabilities and how they had received accommodations at the college I planned to attend, while in my brother’s case the guidance counselor gave information about another program in the area and helped him make sure he was making the right decision.
- Why My Guidance Counselors Are The Reasons I Excel In College
- Tips For Handling Academic Ableism In The Classroom
When I was looking at colleges to apply to, I talked to a lot of family friends about the colleges they attended, as well as the colleges that their kids attended. This helped us learn about a lot of small schools in the state that we had never heard of, and we also learned more about what would make students later decide to transfer schools.
The teacher with school spirit
One of my teachers at my high school had a huge collection of memorabilia for their college in their classroom, and they always encouraged students to talk to them about potentially attending their college, as they had several family members who had been there as well. While most graduates from my college don’t decorate their entire classroom with college memorabilia, it was always exciting to find another teacher who went to the same college that I wanted to go to, and to hear from them about their favorite classes.
- What’s In My High School Backpack As A Low Vision Student
- Dear High School Teacher
- High School Graduations and Low Vision
Different than a guidance counselor, a college counselor is someone who specializes in the college admissions process, helping students with items such as resumes, applications, and sometimes planning for standardized tests. They often are a great source of information about colleges and can help students determine what colleges they should apply to.
- Disclosing Disability In College Applications
- Tips For Submitting A College Video Essay
- College Interview Tips For Disabled Students
My parents talked about college choices a lot, and I decided what my top choice college would be when I was a freshman in high school. While my parents went to different colleges in their undergrad years (though my mom coincidentally got a Master’s degree at my college), they were excited to help me research colleges and figure out what the best fit would be for me. My younger brother then decided to attend the same college as me a few years later after talking to me about why I enjoyed my college so much.
I did a high school mentorship and frequently talked about colleges with my mentor, as they told me about what to look for in a college and what classes they thought I would enjoy the most. In addition, I was able to connect with some amazing mentors in the assistive technology field shortly before I made my final college decision, and they helped me figure out what program would be the best for me.
The internet isn’t a person, but social media is a great tool for reaching out to current students or bloggers about their experiences at their colleges. For students considering attending GMU, feel free to reach out to me through Twitter or my blog email!