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Choosing a College that is Right for You

January 2nd, 2015 by | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

Happy New Year Everyone! It is hard for me to believe that I have just finished my first semester of college. So much has changed since I started college back in late August.

Jessica moving into Wheaton

Jessica moving into Wheaton

About two weeks after I started college, Rachel left for Peace Corps in Cameroon. While I am extremely proud of my sister, and everything that she has accomplished, I still miss her. If you are interested in reading about her adventures in the Peace Corps, here is the link to her blog: http://blog.rachelchaikof.com.

Saying Goodbye to Rachel

Saying Goodbye to Rachel

Across the country, high school seniors who applied Early Decision or Early Action to college will be hearing from them soon. Let me tell you that choosing the right college is not easy because no college is perfect. When my parents and I were first looking at colleges back in my junior year of high school, we overlooked an extremely important factor: disability services. As a student, who benefits greatly from certain accommodations, such as an FM system, a notetaker, or a CART reporter, it was important to me that a college would be willing to accommodate me. As my guidance counselor once told me, every college has its “icing on the cake” the thing, you cannot live without. For my counselor, it was soft-served ice cream, but for me it was the disability services.

Since I went to a small private school for middle school, and I wanted to major in science, I wanted to find a small college that had a strong emphasis on the sciences and was a tight-knit community. During my college search, I looked at six different schools before I narrowed down my choices to two different schools. My top choice was a school that not only had a strong emphasis on the sciences, but it also had an open ceramics studio, which was important to me, especially, if I wanted to continue doing ceramics in college.

On Friday December 13, 2013, I was in my last day of ceramics at the New Art Center. Earlier that day, I had heard that acceptances for my top school were going out. On a whim, I pulled out my phone and decided to check. In anticipation, I anxiously waited for the screen to finish loading. The moment I saw the word “accepted,” I screamed with joy! I could not believe that I got into my top choice! That same night my mom and I put down the placement deposit, thinking that I would be going to that school. Unfortunately, we were mistaken…

In January, my mom decided to get in touch with the disability services coordinator to discuss my accommodations for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year. Much our dismay, the coordinator was not willing to work with us. She was willing to give me the FM system, but she would not give me a notetaker, waive the foreign language requirement, or other accommodations that were also important to me. When I heard about this I could not believe it! My parents were insisting that I switch schools, but I refused because I was still firm on my top choice. I strongly believed that everything would work out in the end. However, I did agree to take a second look at my second choice, and I would meet with the disability coordinators for both schools.

When I met with the disability coordinator for my top choice, I still remained hopeful that she would be willing to accommodate me. When I mentioned to her that I would be needing a notetaker, her response was, “We don’t provide that. However, we’ll give you a note taking pen that records the class.” I was thinking to myself, “How do you expect me to listen to the same three hour lecture again when I already have tons of homework? Not only that, understanding a digitized voice was not exactly easy.” I tried to give her an analogy about why note taking was difficult for me. My analogy was try to imagine reading and running at the same time. You are in a race and are extremely close to finishing your race. The finish line is in sight, but you are reading a really good book that you want to finish. You try to complete both tasks at once, but it is not possible. Instead you crash and lose the race. Despite my giving her a long and lengthy explanation as to why note taking was a challenge for me, the coordinator still did not listen to me.

I mentioned to the coordinator that I needed to have the foreign language requirement waived because I could not take a language. I told her I tried to do French in high school, but I had to drop out halfway into my second year because I could not keep up. Much to my disappointment, she refused to have the foreign language requirement waived. Eventually, I realized this school would not be willing to meet my accommodations that were necessary for my learning.

About a month after meeting with the disability coordinator for my first choice, I met with the coordinator for my second choice college. It was like night and day with everything! When I explained to the coordinator that I would be needing a note taker, she said, “No problem! I can take care of it.” Then I asked about having close captioning for all films shown in class. Once again she said, “No problem, and if there’s no close captioning, we’ll make sure there’s a way to get it, and if not the professor can’t give you the assignment.” Not only that, but also I was able to get the foreign language requirement waived by taking two semesters of a culture class instead. Instead of taking French, Chinese or Latin, I could take a class on African culture and get credit for it!

After meeting with both coordinators, I decided to switch to the other college—Wheaton College (MA)—instead, even though I knew I would not have an open ceramics studio. However, getting my accommodations was extremely important to me, and, if that meant making sacrifices, then I would it.

Why did I write this post again? One, I wanted to give everyone a prospective on what it is like to choose a college as a student with cochlear implants. Two, I wanted to give two big pieces of advice so people would not make the same mistakes I made…

  1.  Do NOT send in your placement deposit on the day you get accepted. It may be your first choice, but you could change your mind!
  2. When you get your college acceptances, meet with the disability services coordinators of those schools to get an idea of what disability services are like. (This was a big mistake that my family and I made because we did not meet with them at all!)

Wheaton College is not perfect because it does not have ceramics and it is not exactly in the most exciting area. Wheaton is in Norton, MA, which a small town that is in the middle of nowhere, and there is rarely anything to do outside of campus that’s close by. However, I do not regret my decision because the school has been so wonderful and accommodating to me. I have an amazing disability services coordinator and advisor who make sure that all of my accommodations are in place. The professors at the school go above and beyond to help me with everything I need. I am so happy at Wheaton that I cannot wait to go back on January 20th, even though I am going to be loaded with homework, especially with organic chemistry and calculus on my schedule for this semester!

Jessica at Peacock Pond

Jessica at Peacock Pond at Wheaton College

3 Comments

TERRI

January 2, 2015 at 4:27 pm

hi! I feel your pain! both my daughters have cochlear implants & my 2nd daughter chose a college in upstate NY. they promised us cart, notetaking, asl if needed. She was sooo excited to start! first week-none of those accomodations happened!! long story short she ended up leaving mid November. Even though they didn’t accomodate we were still out of tuition $$ we paid etc for the time she was there! now she is at RIT in Rochester NY and sooo happy! My other daughter was already at rit where everything is there for you!!! good luck!

Lydia

January 2, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Great article, Jessica — lots of useful information. When did you do most of your college visits?

Jessica

January 3, 2015 at 9:51 pm

Hi Lydia, Thank you! I did most of my out of state college visits during the spring break of my junior year.