Preparing a Checklist for Your Journey to College: A Book Every College Bound Student with Vision Loss Should Read

College Bound Book Cover

Going to college? If so, I have a challenge for you. Read the new book from AFB Press titled, College Bound: A Guide for Students with Visual Impairments, 2nd Edition by Ellen Trief. If you are thinking, “I can’t possibly add one more task to my agenda this spring or summer”, re-consider. Trust me, I’ve read the book and it is essential reading for all middle and high school students planning to go to college, especially those who want to be successful. Available in paperback, online, or as an e-book, College Bound is an informative guidebook with valuable resources that can be utilized as you prepare for college as well as while you are in college.

Here’s the scoop. Most students who are blind or visually impaired are unprepared for college-level coursework as well as the responsibility and freedom that come with attending college. As a result, many drop-out or take longer to graduate than expected. According to the American Foundation for the Blind, of the 23.7 million adults with vision loss in America only 4.1 million have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Kind of surprising, huh?

Well, you can earn your degree if you are prepared for the responsibilities and increased academic demands awaiting you at college. The keyword is prepared. Give me five minutes to convince you how College Bound is one of the preparation tools you need.

The author, Ellen Trief, describes her book, College Bound, as being a “roadmap for a successful journey through college life.” As with all new destinations we travel to, we often plan ahead by reviewing Google Maps, reading TripAdvisor, or by learning a new language. Consider college a trip you will embark on for at least four years. This is a trip worthy of some pre-planning. Prior to this new and exciting journey it is critical that you plan ahead and prepare by equipping yourself with the tools, knowledge, skills, and resources needed to succeed at obtaining a higher education as a student with vision loss. Simply put, this book is your self-help guidebook for your journey into college.

Student walking down a school hallway with his back to the camera

I love this book, not only for myself as a teacher of students with visual impairments, but also for you because it is organized in chapters that can be read in any sequence. It also includes several case studies of college-bound students you can relate to and learn from. You can read this book independently as a student, but I encourage you to also read along with your parents, teacher of the visually impaired, vocational rehabilitation counselor, or orientation and mobility instructor.

As you read the book, you will learn about the higher level skills needed to get into, successfully attend, and in my opinion, ultimately graduate college. As a member of your Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team, you can use the knowledge you gain from reading the book to identify and set IEP goals which will prepare you for the demands of college. Work to achieve the goals during your high school career with support and instruction from your team of professionals preparing you for your transition into college. This is great practice for coordinating your services; a skill essential for college success.

As you create a checklist of skills to learn and things to do for your adventure to college, add the following noteworthy items and resources to your list (learn about these and more when you read this book):

1. Apply to College: As a freshman in high school, start completing the items on the four year college planning checklist which is included in Chapter One. This chapter is also your go-to guide for learning about and applying for accommodations on the SAT and ACT.

2. Learn College Rules: Do you know the differences between high school and post-secondary education in regards to the laws, your responsibilities, classes, teachers/professors, studying, testing, grades, and setting priorities? These are compared side-by-side in Chapter Two and are beneficial for you to know as you advocate for yourself in college.

3. Learn Research & Library Skills: Chapter Seven is a must read. The author goes into great detail about the library and research skills you need to learn and practice before college. The process of carrying out research for a paper using online resources, books, and journals is broken down into steps which you can refer to now and while in college.

4. Complete a Technology Assessment Questionnaire (included in Chapter Nine): Identify your assistive technology needs, obtain the technology you need, and learn to use it before college. Following are just a few technology skills the book specifies you’ll need in college:

  • Store information using cloud based services such as iCloud
  • Subscribe as a member to various organizations for accessing books such as Learning Ally, Bookshare, Project Gutenberg, etc.
  • Use screen sharing (also known as desktop sharing) software to access whiteboard and computer presentations.
  • Are you using the apps on your smartphone to access information and complete tasks in school? You will in college. Start practicing those skills now.

5. Practice Using a Live Reader: One chapter which stood out to me in the book and may for you too is Chapter Three (Essential Academic Arrangements). Will you need to use a live reader in college to access and complete the substantial amounts of required reading? If so, are you using one now? If not, you can learn tips for hiring a reliable reader, scheduling, and studying with a reader in the book.

6. Create and Use a Resource List: The resources throughout the book are valuable and some, to name only a few, include:

  • A list of keyboarding programs to learn effective touch typing skills
  • A sample letter requesting a reading list from a professor
  • A sample job posting for hiring a reader
  • A checklist to help you decide “What College Features Are Important to You?”
A woman standing outside with two female students laughing

College Bound includes additional chapters and resources on time management, organization, note-taking, study skills, computer skills, living on your own, etc. Unfortunately, if you wait until you are in college to explore and learn all of the required skills for navigating college, you may be faced with unnecessary and preventable challenges which will negatively impact your success in college.

Your college years have so much to offer you. Are you ready to start the journey by taking on my challenge to prepare now? If you do, make your first stop on your road to college to AFB’s website to get a copy of College Bound to start reading!