By: Mary Alexander, College Success Program Director and National Director, Student Initiatives
Once a month, the College Success Program will host a webinar on a topic of interest to high school and college students who are bling or who have low vision, their parents, and the professionals who work with them. On May 6, 2020, our mentors hosted a webinar called "A Crystal Ball for Blind/Visually Impaired Students: A Glimpse Into Your First Semester of College." Mentor Bryan Duarte moderated a panel in which four of our other mentors, Maureen Hayden, Rashad Jones, Miso Kwak and Sam van der Swaagh, offered insight into the college experience as recent college graduates.
In case you missed it, here are the top seven takeaways from this impactful event. You can also view this webinar in its entirety by clicking here.
1. Students must be proactive!
Once in college, you'll be in charge of lots of details that other people took care of for you in high school. Know what they are before you get there. Professors and offices for students with disabilities are there to help, but in order to get the help, students need to be clear and specific about their needs and ready to work with people who might be new to blindness or low vision.
2. Reach out!
Develop relationships with professors, offices for students with disabilities, and others as they could have a lifelong impact. You never know whether a contact you think is a passing acquaintance could lead to a deep friendship, a useful work experience, or even a recommendation for graduate school or a job. Even if the relationships does not have a lifelong impact, these connections can help people become willing to work with you.
3. Position yourself for success.
When classes return to campus, define your physical space. Stand out by sitting in the front of the class, asking good questions, and arriving early to get set up. Even if classes remain online, arrive to meetings early, pay attention and ask good and thoughtful questions when it is appropriate to do so.
4. It's ok not to have all the answers.
Every freshman asks questions, and there is no reason you should not.
5. Ask for help; do it responsibly.
Sometimes, the most efficient way to accomplish something is to request sighted assistance. That doesn't make you less independent, just smart. However, knowing when to ask and when to be independent can be crucial. If you find yourself asking for help with the same process over and over again, think about whether you should be doing it yourself, and if you should, work on getting the skills you need.
6. Scholarship advice: apply, apply, apply!
Don't be afraid to look far and wide for scholarship opportunities!
7. Find your social niche; find balance.
It may take time, but don't give up, it's worth it. Use your interests and hobbies to inform your decisions (i.e., band, choir, student government, faith-based groups) to help you make social connections. However, if you have academic work, it's ok to say "no" to balance your work/play life. Learn to balance your school, work, and social needs.
Learning Ally's College Success Program will be conducting webinars monthly. To be informed of upcoming webinars, send an email to email@example.com requesting to be added to our mailing list.