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Student Life

Thriving With a Disability in College

January 18, 2021

The National Center for Education Statistics reports approximately 11% of college undergraduates have a disability. Federal statistics show less than half of these students graduate from two-year courses within eight years, and only one-third of disabled students complete four-year courses. There are various reasons for this educational gap, including the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which ensure disabled students are accommodated as required, only apply to colleges receiving federal aid. This, coupled with having to suddenly adapt to independent life without your usual support basis, can add challenges to the college experience.

If you’re about to embark on your first year of study, here’s how you can ensure you have an optimal learning experience.

Battling Stereotypes

A study by Alison May and colleagues, published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities, found that it is generally accepted that “people with disabilities constitute a stigmatized group and that disability stigma has a negative impact on students with disabilities in higher education settings.” There are various categories of stereotypes about people with learning disabilities. These include believing that students have a low level of intelligence. Added to this issue are social challenges, since students with disabilities often have to spend longer on academic tasks, leaving less time for socializing. Students with disabilities can also fear being criticized by teaching staff and peers. 

Choosing The Right College

Selecting a college with a wide array of services can make a big difference when it comes to the quality of one’s learning life. Students with cerebral palsy, for instance, may have complex needs, owing to a possible combination of visual, hearing and speech impediments. When cerebral palsy is first diagnosed in a baby or small child, doctors are often unable to predict the challenges they may face as they grow older. Adults, for instance, can develop walking and other disorders that require them to use a wheelchair. In these cases, ramps, elevators, and other equipment are key for attending class and making your way to different areas of campus. 

Top Colleges For Students With Disabilities To Consider

Just a few colleges with a stellar reputation for accommodating this and other needs of disabled students include Landmark College, The University of Arizona, Beacon College, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Iowa. Some colleges also have prestigious programs for students with disabilities – including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of California, Berkeley, and Wayne State University. The latter, for instance, is fully wheelchair accessible, and has a program called Handicapper Educational Services – which provides financial aid, personal assistance, and other types of help for students with disabilities.

Applying For Grants And Scholarships

It is important to be an active member of a network centered around your disability so as to be aware of any new grants and scholarships you may be entitled to. The National Federation for the Blind, for instance, sponsors 30 grants and scholarships every year. You can also safeguard your finances by taking out insurance catered to students, including renters and tuition insurance.

While a fraction of undergraduate students have disabilities, an even smaller percentage complete courses necessary for a degree. In order to maximize your chances of thriving in college with a disability, selecting the best college is important. Be sure to look for one that offers educational support as well as other services for students with disabilities.

Student Life

11 Tips to Maximize Your College Experience

December 15, 2020

Headed off to college? That means it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get the most out of your college experience (and we don’t mean just friends, football games, and all-nighters). The goal is to graduate from college in a way that’s life-changing. Here are eleven tips to get started. 

1. Meaningfully participate in extracurricular activities

The students who get the most of their college experience are the ones who get involved in ways that spark their interest and passion. This doesn’t just mean sports but also includes music, theater, leadership, volunteering, or other activities. If you’re planning on retiring from your primary high school skill, choose a new one before you get to college. 

2. Live on campus 

You have the rest of your life to live off campus. When you live on campus, you put yourself right in the middle of the action and energy of college. Let other people fight over electricity bills and the dishes. 

3. Leave your car at home. 

If you live on campus, it’s easier to leave your car at home. Not only does it save you a few thousand dollars a year on insurance and maintenance, but you also don’t have to worry about finding parking on campus or its corresponding fees, like a parking ticket. 

4. Get a bike

A bike is a great college alternative to a car. You save time and money because you can bike up to your classes, park, and lock. Plus it’s a great way to avoid that Freshman Fifteen! 

5. Take small classes

Do what you can to take small classes. This might mean moving to advanced classes sooner or taking less-popular majors. If you are only an observer in your classes instead of an active participant, you’ll miss out on the full college experience.

6. Learn from the great professors

Find out who the life-changing professors are and take the classes they teach. Look on professor review websites or ask upperclassmen. Taking classes from outstanding professors who are passionate about their subjects can have a huge impact on your life. 

7. Continue to apply for financial aid. 

While most financial aid is given to first-year students, there is typically money withheld for second year and beyond. Once you choose your major, ask professors about potential scholarships, and keep applying for private aid.

8. Try to only work a job during vacation and on weekends. 

If possible, don’t work more than 10-12 hours a week during the semester. Minimize the time spent at a job so you can maximize the time focused on schoolwork and college activities. 

9. Take classes that prepare you for life. 

By taking classes like art history, accounting, and computer coding, you’ll be at home in museums, prepared with the basics to run your own business, and have a foundational understanding of web development. College is the last time you can indulge in extensive education without also juggling a full-time job.

10. Get bilingual by graduation. 

Knowing two (or more languages) makes you more hireable, putting you ahead of the average applicant. Spend a semester and a summer abroad, or even a whole year, to learn a language.

11. Fill out the FAFSA each year. 

Many students will do all they can to qualify for financial aid before they go to college. But many don’t realize their parents need to complete the FAFSA every October. 

College is a great opportunity to learn new things and have life-changing experiences. Make the most of it with these tips! What else have you done to maximize your experience in college?