Before I left for college, my mom was talking with someone, expressing how worried she was about my transition to college, since getting my accommodations in high school was so frustrating. This person reassured my mom that college was completely different, and I would be fine- and they were definitely right. Here are ten things that surprised me about how different college is than high school.
No one really notices my cane
I started using my blindness cane shortly after freshman orientation. I had delayed getting a blindness cane for many reasons, one of which was the worry about social stigma. Maybe it's because there are several other cane users at my school, but no one seems to notice that I use my cane when walking around. Of course, they acknowledge it exists, but it's not common for people to go "check it out, she has a blindness cane!" For my responses on what happens when people do say that, click here.
It's easy to drop classes
I attended exactly one class period of a mythology class, and then came to the conclusion my accommodations would not be followed. Instead of filling out a bunch of forms and going to the counselor like I did in high school, I just clicked a few buttons in my student account and chose a different class.
Accessible materials are abundant
Digital materials are extremely common in college classrooms, as is assistive technology. It's easy to make anything accessible, and there are also resources to help students learn how to create accessible materials.
Testing is much easier
I had a few teachers who claimed my large print was unfair to the other students or was an unfair advantage. I have never had a professor say that, but I've also had the resources of the testing center reserved for students with disabilities. Click here to read all of my posts on this topic.
People are proactive, not reactive
My Disability Services file was set up in order to ensure I receive accommodations from day 1- I didn't have to wait until there was a problem to receive my services. Read more about setting up a file here.
Class attendance is flexible
This is not to say that skipping class is a good thing, but if there is severe weather, illness, or other circumstances preventing a student from getting to class, professors are happy to have students attend class remotely or send alternative assignments. This is especially helpful since I get chronic migraines.
Technology isn't just allowed, it's encouraged
As I have mentioned in past posts, my high schools favored pencil-and-paper learning, which make accessing materials challenging. Since technology is used in every career, professors encourage students to bring technology to class and use it to complete assignments. Everyone is using laptops and tablets, not just certain students.
There are many other students like me
I have found a sense of community at my college with various students who also have chronic illness, and even a few with Chiari Malformation. I'd never met anyone else my age with low vision until I got to college either. Often times, we were the only ones in our schools that we knew of with chronic illness, so it's amazing to meet other people who have had similar experiences.
Professors are open to having students with disabilities
While not all professors are like this, almost all of my professors fully embraced having a student with a disability in the classroom and were willing to work with me on accommodations. Often times, the professors that were most enthusiastic about working with me wore glasses, worked with someone who was blind/low vision, or had a background in working with disabilities.
It's way better than high school
High school was extremely difficult for me not because of the content, but because my disability was frequently perceived as an inconvenience. In college, I am able to self-advocate and work closely with professors to make sure I succeed. I have loved being in college, and hope that others can have the same positive experience that I have.