This spring I graduated from college, along with thousands of students across the country. But my academic journey was a little different than most.
My high school experiences were difficult. After transferring from a boarding school to a public high school, I became good at faking it academically. But I had literally no reading comprehension…and in college, that’s a problem!
Fortunately, I attended Landmark College in Putney, Vt. All of my classmates had some form of learning disability. Still, I started out earning C’s and C+’s — and I knew those kinds of grades weren’t going to make my mom happy, especially given the cost of tuition.
My “aha! moment” came after my first semester when I discovered text-to-speech technology. Instead of reading my textbooks and assignments, a computer reads them aloud to me. The technology saved my academic career. I use it for everything, from my writing to math classes.
I have been accepted into the Americorps program, and will work in Northern California as a teacher’s aide and coordinator of an after-school program. Then I plan to go on to get a degree in journalism.
I’m not alone in my experiences. About one in 10 first-year students has some form of a learning disability. Here’s my advice for you:
Know your rights as a learner: If you have a diagnosed learning disability, you likely need specialized instruction or accommodations in high school (often referred to as an Individualized Education Plan or 504 Plan). Contact the college you’re going to attend, and set up time to meet with the learning disabilities coordinator. He or she can help you set up a plan before classes start.
Know that you are more than a number: Even at a large university, you shouldn’t feel lost in the crowd. Visit the resource center this summer, introduce yourself and find out what they offer. While you’re there, try to also meet with your academic adviser so you have a personal relationship when school starts.
A summer visit can also calm your nerves: Leaving home for college can be scary. I wasn’t keen at all about coming to Landmark, but I attended orientation and after my parents left, I looked around and said, “It’s beautiful here!”
Volunteer for activities: Academics isn’t all there is. I was a residence adviser, editor of the school paper and active with admissions. I managed to be a strong student with a great GPA, but my people skills also improved.
Get a head start: Knowing your way around campus before you arrive in fall gives you an advantage, and so will knowing a little about each course you’re going to take. College is nothing like high school. You will be on your own academically and socially. But with a little planning, you will succeed!
Do you have advice that you would like to share with the incoming Class of 2015? Let Jenna know via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on the Campus Overload Facebook page.