Student Story 1

Transition to College
Six years ago, when I was fourteen, I lost all of my vision during one long summer. Although I was born legally blind and had reasonably good vision in one eye, I did not expect to lose all of my sight. Nevertheless, I resolved to work harder and accomplish my goals. Four years later, I graduated from high school and was accepted into a high level liberal arts college. Despite the school?s reputation, I was ambivalent about making the transition. I had grown up in an urban community and did not know how I would navigate the serpentine paths of the campus. To my surprise, my transition went better than I would have expected. I grew familiar, little by little, with the campus?s ins and outs. The student body welcomed me warmly and without reservation. The college made sure I was able to acquire all of my class materials by either scanning them for me or, in some cases, having the material recorded on tape. My smooth transition was broken when a bias incident was perpetrated against me. Although I was blind as well as an African American, all of the students that I had previously encountered were friendly and more than helpful. The incident shocked and upset me greatly, but I realized that incidents such as this occur everywhere; thus I decided to stay at the college. Except for this incident, my only other surprise was how hard it was to navigate the campus when it was covered in several feet of snow.

Student Story 2

Transition to College
I began losing my hearing when I was around three. It remained stable for many years, but when I was thirteen I experienced successive severe losses in each ear. I am now profoundly hearing impaired and hear only limited sounds with the assistance of a hearing aid. During my junior year of high school, I started looking at a number of high- level small liberal arts schools. I inquired about disability services at each school in addition to the usual academic and social aspects of college. One thing that I discovered during my search is that small schools have much less experience in accommodating specific disabilities and tend to have less structured policies than large universities. The positive side of this is that a student may get more individual attention. On the other hand, the student must be very proactive, tell the school exactly what he or she needs, and work closely with the administration and faculty to make sure those needs are met. At this college, I have an interpreter and note takers for my classes. I was also assigned to housing with strobe light fire alarms. On the whole, I have been pleased with my experience here. The people are friendly and the faculty are generally very willing to accommodate any needs I have and are available during office hours to discuss course work. I have encountered some problems with an unreliable interpreting agency, and the school has been very supportive in trying to resolve this problem. My biggest complaint here has been that there is no system for arranging for note takers and they are not paid. This means that I have had to recruit volunteers on my own (by either asking them myself or asking a professor to recommend a student). As a result, the quality of the notes is not always good and this can be extremely frustrating. However, the school is currently trying to correct this problem and to institute better policies and procedures for accommodations. Apart from the occasional difficulties with the interpreting agency and the ongoing frustration of trying to obtain good notes, I have very much enjoyed my experience at this college.

Parent Story

Transition to College
For high school graduates, making the transition from high school to college is a very challenging period in every student's life. This transition becomes even more challenging when the student has a learning disability. We have two children in our family who are both attending college. Our oldest child is a junior in a large university in Pennsylvannia and our son is a sophomore at a small private institution in New York State. Both children had adjustment issues during the transition process from high school to college.

Our youngest child was diagnosed with a learning disability while in grammar school. Early on in his academic career, my wife and I decided to provide him with the support services necessary to be successful in a normal classroom environment. Based on his disability, accommodations were made to leverage his academic strengths and minimize his disability. Throughout high school, he received academic support from the resource room teacher and was provided with testing modification. The goal of this collaborative effort was to provide our son with every opportunity to succeed in high school, develop a strong foundation of academic skills and the ability to succeed in college. It was very important for us as parents to lead throughout this process. Our son needed to learn what steps he had to take and develop specific skills to be successful academically. It was equally as important not to make every decision for him or do his homework when the subject or assignment tested his learning disability. He needed to learn how to deal with his disability while in the classroom, in the school, on the athletic field and socially with students his own age. As his parents, we guided and helped. We also relied on his teachers and the professional staff of the school to create academic goals where his skills were tested and his knowledge evaluated. Our goal was to determine his academic capabilities and the level of success he was capable of achieving. We did not want his disability to prevent him from reaching his full academic potential.

The transition from high school to college was not very easy for our son. Children with disabilities can become seriously challenged and very intimidated by a new school, teachers, students and the new academic environment. All of these issues need to be addressed once the college search process begins and until it is finished during his senior year. It is very important that the student identify the type of school and academic environment that makes sense based on his particular situation and fits his learning style. This means evaluating the size and location of the school, the academic philosophy of the school, the type of courses and potential majors that are offered, the type of students that are enrolled, understanding the type of student life that exists on the campus and the type of support services offered to students with disabilities. After all of these discussions and assessments, it is important that the college goals be set and established by the student. Parents need to guide the student based on their knowledge of his needs and input from his teachers and advisors. This, in itself, is not an easy process.

My wife and I spent many hours discussing all the issues concerning our son's college decision and what made sense for him. In addition, this process was made even more complicated by all of the hype and attention high schools, students, and parents place on college acceptance during the senior year. The college decision-making process was difficult, but the transition period offered even bigger challenges. All the issues that are raised during the transition period can not be addressed. With all the planning and preparation, the best of plans may not go as scheduled and other considerations may impact the student during the transition period into college. The realities of life in college hit the student fast and furiously from the first day of classes. Demands are much greater and the educational environment is very different and much more difficult. The student starts his freshmen year at 200 MPH and he is on a roller coaster ride. New friendships and relationships have to be made with a roommate and life as it was known is now very different. Our son found all of these issues to be very challenging and his disability compounded his transition into college. During the first three months of his first year he suffered with severe homesickness. The anxiety created by being away from home prevented him from exploring and learning about the resources of the school because he was not thinking clearly. He was not able to develop friendships during this period and this has had long-term effects to his transition into college. In addition, an unexpected athletic injury further complicated his ability to socially adjust to college during his freshmen year. As parents, we spent many days and nights discussing what steps he needed to take to get integrated into the school. Without the support and help from the college's Academic Support Department, our son would never have been able to complete his first semester at college. As parents, you need to know exactly what type of services can be provided by the college or university to help your child during this difficult and challenging period. Knowing and understanding what your child's challenges are based on his or her disability is very important to ensure successful transition into college. It is not about making it easier or cutting corners for them, but giving them the opportunity to manage their disabilities and use their skills, talents and intelligence to be the best that they can be. Guiding your child through this process takes a lot of time and consideration. If the support services are in place and working, success will be earned through hard work, dedication and the belief that the right school was chosen by the student. Our son continues to struggle with his transition into college. Many factors have contributed to the challenges that he has had to face and they were impossible to predict or plan for during the transition from high school to college.

Student Story 3

Transition to College
Having bipolar disorder is a difficult enough battle at anytime in one's life. Making the transition to college is difficult for everyone. But, being someone with bipolar disorder, while you are transitioning to college, or are in college, is a true challenge. For most, the onset of bipolar disorder occurs in one's late teens or early twenties, and that is when it entered my life-just as I was starting college. I always had learning disabilities and, what I thought, was ADD (attention deficit disorder), but it wasn't until the beginning of my junior year of college that I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, which is often confused with ADD.

At first, I thought that staying at college would be impossible. How was I going to keep up with classes, school work and have a social life and still manage new medications and mood swings? It would be a lie to say that the beginning wasn't difficult. New medications made me tired, and accepting the disease was a challenge in itself. But, as I began to see, having a psychological disorder and being a college student can coincide, as long as you have the right support.

Bipolar disorder can be treated effectively with the right medications and therapy, so the first thing I had to do was find a reputable psychiatrist and a therapist that I could connect with. When I did find someone that I could talk to, my life became infinitely better. My psychiatrist worked at matching the right medications to my symptoms and soon I began to feel better.

Having a psychological disorder away from home, in a college environment is not impossible, but it does take work. I am surrounded by great professors, professionals and friends, that make the hard days a little easier and the easy days especially fun, productive and happy.