Lesson 1: College Bound As a Student Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired
Planning and preparing for your life after high school is an important process as a student who is blind or visually impaired. Deciding what you will need to do to achieve your future personal and professional goals as an adult is a decision that should begin with some exploration and reflection. Your options range from entering the workforce straight out of high school to attending college or a career school to obtain a degree or training prior to employment. When planning for your future, it is important you seriously consider what you want to do in life that will make you happy. If college or career school is a consideration, knowing what will be expected of you and what the commitment to attend means for your future is an important part of the planning process.
Begin the exploration process by fully considering college. Take note: college is not a continuation of high school; it differs in many ways. Some of the variations you will find intriguing and exciting. For instance, in college, you will get to take classes you are interested in, build your own schedule, and have an opportunity to live on your own. Unlike high school, where your time is structured by others, you will take full ownership of managing your time to handle the increased workload in college. You will be responsible for your academic success, including what you do and what you may not do (such as go to class).
College is an investment of your time and money; your success depends on your effort and devotion to study. If you attend full-time, you will spend approximately 15-18 hours in class and an average of 20-30 hours per week studying. You will also be paying for your college education, and in order for your financial commitment to yield a return, you will need to have a certain skill set to succeed as a visually impaired college student.
Although the college curriculum is rigorous, earning a college degree will open job opportunities for you, put you in a position to earn a good salary, help you move up the career ladder, and provide you with a sense of stability. It also increases your ability to afford things such as owning a home or traveling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a person with a bachelor’s degree can earn as much as one million dollars more over a lifetime than someone who only has a high school diploma.
Choosing to attend college while still in high school will give you additional time to prepare a resume with the criteria stressed by college admissions offices. It’s never too late to attend college, but students with visual impairments should start planning their transition from high school to college as early as the seventh or eighth grade. Planning ahead will give you time to learn the competencies needed to succeed academically and socially.
When you start your freshman year in high school, map out a four-year plan that will give you the accolades to be accepted into college. Colleges look for many things in an applicant. Some of the factors that may impact your admission include your overall grade point average, the difficulty of the classes on your high school transcript, college entrance exam scores (SAT and ACT), class ranking among your peers, involvement and commitment to extracurricular activities, written self-expression (judged by your application essay), participation in your community, and volunteer work.
To prepare for college-level work, you should take challenging classes in high school such as honors and advanced placement classes or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. Your transcript will need to reflect that you have taken at least the minimum number of course requirements for the school you plan to attend, which may include the following:
- Four years of English classes
- Four years of math classes (such as Algebra I and II, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus)
- Four years of science classes (such as Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Space Science, and Physics)
- Four years of history (such as U.S. History, U.S. Government, Geography, and World History)
- Two years or more of a foreign language
As you complete the activities in this guide, you should begin to have a better understanding of whether or not college is the right path for you. This is your decision, so it is important to put aside the expectations your family or friends have for you. Some students attend college because they think they have to go. Feeling pressure to attend is not a good reason to go to college. Your decision to attend college should not be based on the notion that all students with vision loss need to attend college to have a successful future. Discuss your decision with your personal network (your parents, friends, mentors, and teachers). This is ultimately your decision, and it should be driven by your personal and future goals as well as your capabilities to succeed.
After careful consideration, if you are not ready to pursue a college degree or if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, you may not want to take on the financial and time commitment that is required to attend college until you are confident college is for you. Not everyone will need to attend college to achieve their personal and professional goals. You may not want to continue to go to school after you graduate high school. There are several jobs that pay well without a degree. In fact, some people hold jobs where they started at the bottom and worked their way up to a higher position. If there is really something that you want to do with your life that doesn’t require a degree, you have other options available to you.
Additional options you may want to consider are covered in activity two of the guide and should not be viewed as a less significant choice but simply as the best choice for you to achieve your goals.
Planning to go to college takes a considerable amount of time and energy. Deciding if it is the right choice for you is a decision that is worthy of research and thoughtfulness so you can make an informed choice and plan accordingly.
Take time to ask yourself the questions in this assignment to guarantee you are making a good choice. Although you may not have a definitive answer now, the questions are important for you to consider and some additional research may be necessary. Continue to reflect on the questions as you complete the next several assignments in the activity guide.
What do you want for yourself as an adult?
How do you plan to achieve your future goals?
What would be your ideal job or career? Is a higher education degree required for the occupation? Is a degree necessary to advance in the career?
College is expensive. How will you pay for it?
Are you ready to be challenged by exploring subjects that interest you in greater depth?
Are you prepared with the skills and self-discipline needed to spend approximately 15-18 hours per week in a classroom and 20-30 hours a week studying outside of class time?
Considering you will have a significant amount of unstructured time, are you ready for the level of responsibility it takes to prioritize your time to complete tasks?
Are you or did you have a difficult or fairly easy time with academic classes in middle school and high school?
Reflect on your grades. Are you a high-achieving student?
Do you see yourself getting more satisfaction from going straight to work after high school instead of back into the classroom?
Do you enjoy spending time in the classroom?
Will you have the skills and resources necessary to complete the substantial amount of reading and writing that will be assigned?
Do you have the skills you need to succeed as a college student such as proficient technology skills, orientation and mobility skills, notetaking skills, research skills, time management skills, problem solving skills, self-determination skills, etc.?
When you finish college, what will you do?
The National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision (NRTC) at Mississippi State University has a Transition Activity Calendar available for you to review. The calendar provides a list of tasks that students who are blind or visually impaired need to complete as early as middle school to be ready to attend college. Review From School to College: A Transition Activity Calendar for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired to determine if you are taking the right steps to prepare for college or if you need to spend more time doing so.
Read “A Time Line for Applying College” (pages 18-31) in College Bound: A Guide for Students with Visual Impairments, 2nd Edition by Ellen Trief.
Using the planning resources available to you, create a college timeline using a digital calendar. As you complete the activities in the guide, add important deadlines to your calendar.
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