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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Walking in Sunshine, Ignoring the Shadows

From Smart Kids with LD

April 30, 2013

About Me (the author): I am a freshman in college with dyslexia. I decided to share my story anonymously because I thought it would allow me to be more honest about my experiences. I am purposely not naming the college I am attending so that I can be more forthcoming with details. There have been many more struggles than I ever could have imagined, and hopefully my experiences will help others.

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In our family room during my high school senior year, there was a pile of college handbooks and brochures several feet high. I diligently researched and then narrowed my choices to 13 schools—10 “highly selective” colleges that admit less than 15% of applicants plus 3 “safety schools” in case my top 10 didn’t work out. I made sure that all of those schools had good LD support programs.

Because my top-choice schools were far away, I decided to wait until I knew where I was accepted before I visited. I was accepted at five of my top schools, so now I had to decide which “Admitted Students Days” I could attend in the four weeks before the acceptance deadline.

Here’s where I made my first mistake. I was sick of my snowy hometown, so I chose the school with the best weather for my first visit.

Once I saw that campus glowing in sunshine, it was all over. I crossed the other schools off my list without a look.

At this point, I am sure that my Mom would want me to mention that she didn’t go along with my decision because the campus was pretty. I attended two classes and reported back to Mom that the classes were small and the professors were interesting. We also had a meeting to check out the services for LD students.

What I didn’t tell Mom (2nd mistake) was that the students at this school were not very friendly.

When I asked for directions, I received awkward stares and uncomfortable, mumbled answers. This campus was sunny, but the students were not.

Before you judge me for judging, I can tell you that I have now visited dozens of college campuses as a member of a college team, and my school still stands out for having a much higher number of unusual types.

I am not talking about piercings, tattoos or combat boots, because those are all normal college sights. I mean staring at the ground, dressing completely in black, and carrying Pokemon backpacks.

While those are perfectly valid social and fashion choices, they are not the people I hang with. I am proud to say that my college is a haven for a large number of students who were left out in high school, but that reality means there is a much smaller pool of potential friends for me.

Bottom Line

The Mistakes:
  • Liking one terrific aspect of a college so much that I ignored many of the other equally important areas.
  • Keeping my concerns to myself, instead of sharing them with my family. 
The Solution: I joined a team on campus where I have made good friends. And I have asked them to introduce me to some of their new friends, too. It took a lot more time and effort than I expected.

How to Avoid this Situation
  • Visit many schools, and don’t choose a school because the campus is gorgeous.
  • Be honest with your family. You need help making such an important decision, so share all of your reactions so they can give some badly needed perspective.

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