|What is it going to be like for me when I go to college?|
You've probably heard some clichés about college life. Best years of your life. Nothing like high school. One thing for sure is that college will be YOUR experience. It's what YOU do (or don't do) that will matter most! By thinking ahead, you can begin deliberately shaping in a positive way the role that your disability will play in your college experience.
You may find yourself wondering about college professors and what they think about students with disabilities. Just as it is hard to generalize what college will be like for all students, it is hard to generalize about professors' attitudes and behaviors. Chances are they won't have attitudes about students with disabilities any more than they have attitudes about all students, in general.
Speaking with each of your professors concerning your needs is one of the most important responsibilities you will have. Rest assured that the information you share with your professor concerning your disability is deemed strictly confidential and you should expect that what you say would not be shared with anyone else at the college. Your professor is not permitted to share that information with other faculty or with other students except with your expressed permission to do so.
Think about how would you like to be regarded by your professors. If you want to be viewed as a student with a high potential for success, then be sure to portray that image. Put your disability in its appropriate perspective/context; don't hide or exaggerate your disability as a factor affecting your achievement. Remember -- first and foremost you are a STUDENT; your disability is something you need to manage well so that it does not undermine your potential to succeed.
Timing is a very important factor in terms of speaking with your professors. Do it early in the semester, once you have received a copy of the course syllabus and have taken the time to read it and to understand the classroom policies the instructor has laid out for all students. You may find that some of your professors have included a statement on their syllabi that encourages students with disabilities to speak with them as soon as possible. And even though you may be anxious to get the conversation over with, don't do it on the run. Generally, it is best to make an appointment to speak to your professor during office hours rather than immediately before or after class.
If you have never had to speak directly with anyone about your disability, you may be wondering how much or how little you should say. College offices for students with disabilities can help you prepare for those conversations. They may also provide you with a letter to bring to your professors that describes the accommodations that are appropriate for you in your classes.
Another question you might be asking yourself is whether there will be anyone else like you at the college or university? Of course not; no one else is exactly like you. But, if what you really want to know is whether there will be other students with disabilities at the college, that is a very good question, and chances are the answer is a very loud yes! Estimates are that anywhere from 5-10% of incoming first year students have disabilities. At private/independent colleges and universities a majority of students with disabilities tend to be those with learning disabilities, while public colleges and universities tend to have more students with vision, hearing, and mobility impairments.
Don't hesitate to ask the office for students with disabilities how many students with disabilities are at the college. Once you are on a roll, you may want to keep firing other great questions. Are there some students I can talk with to find out what their experiences are like at the college? Are there any groups of students with disabilities on campus?