College Connection: Making A Successful Transition To College

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Jack McCormick and his guide dog Jake, center, at a recent “Eye To Eye” event Jack organized at his college. On the left is Dr. Penny Hartin, CEO of the World Blind Union, the guest speaker at the event.

Jack McCormick and his guide dog Jake, center, at a recent “Eye To Eye” event Jack organized at his college. On the left is Dr. Penny Hartin, CEO of the World Blind Union, the guest speaker at the event.

By Jack McCormick

Starting high school or going off to college is not easy; new people, classes and sometimes even a new city makes for a stressful transition. Doing it all with a vision impairment adds some additional complexity. I am going to share with you my experience of moving to college with a vision impairment. Hopefully you can learn from my experiences and apply it to your own life.

Four years ago I knew that I wanted to attend Wilfrid Laurier University. When I received my acceptance letter I immediately started to plan, which proved to be incredibly important. I was able to connect with various people at the university: getting a larger dorm room at no additional cost to accommodate my guide dog, speaking with the Accessible Learning Center to arrange exam accommodations (I write my exams on a computer in a private room), and connecting with professors before classes started.

For someone with vision loss it can be challenging to navigate a new place and college campuses are no different. It is so important to learn the layout of your college before move in day because I am telling you, you won’t have time during frosh week and you will want to know where your classes are before they start. There are a lot of benefits to knowing the layout of your campus beyond being able to find your classes and places to eat.

  1.     If you know where things are better than the people on your floor, then you can help them find their classes. It’s a good way to get to know people and show them that you don’t let your vision loss stand in your way.
  2.     Getting involved with campus organizations is a great way to have some fun and get to know like-minded people. These organizations aren’t going to meet in the same places as your classes. So you need to be able to find them or you are going to miss out on one of the best parts of college life!

“So, Jack, I’ve planned and learned the layout of campus. What about the first day? How do I make friends? I am worried that people will judge me because of my vision impairment.”

  • Remember that all people are nervous during their first days of college. You are not alone!
  • Own your vision impairment, tell people about it and be open to answering questions (you will get some dumb ones). This eliminates any awkwardness that people may have about your vision loss and soon you will find a great group of friends!

I hope this helps as you move away to college!

Jack McCormick is a 21-year-old honors business student at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo. Jack was diagnosed in high school with Leber congenital amaurosis due to mutations in the RPE65 gene. He is a Sofia Sees Hope ambassador, helping people living with LCA and IRDs. Read his blog at jackdamccormick.wordpress.com