College and Beyond
Your first two years of college are probably going to be devoted to core liberal arts categories such as:
- The humanities
- Social sciences
- Natural sciences
During that time you'll have a chance to adjust to:
- Being more independent—even if you continue to live at home a lot of your academic and social activities are going to take place on campus.
- Having a more diverse group of classmates, particularly if you go to an out-of-state college.
- Being responsible for managing your time efficiently. Your total time in classes will be 12 to 15 hours a week, spread over 3 or 4 days. That may sound like an easy program but for every hour in class you'll have to spend an hour or more of study time on your own.
- Hiring and working with readers.
- Relying on more sophisticated assistive technology devices. Becoming skilled at using various electronic aids for note taking, studying, researching and writing term papers, etc., is well worth the effort. You'll be able to accomplish more, and focus on the content of an assignment rather than struggle with techniques for completing it.
- Meeting regularly with your academic advisor to discuss your undergraduate goals, course selections, majors that interest you, and post-college ambitions.
By the end of your sophomore year you'll be expected to have taken some electives as well as the core subjects, and be ready to decide what you are going to major in. If you're having trouble making that decision, talk to your advisor about taking an interest inventory test. It's a useful tool for identifying a group of interests (for example: language, how different cultures express a particular emotion, why some languages have much smaller vocabularies than others) and what that group of interests suggests you might want to pursue as a college major and beyond that as a career.
During your last two years as an undergraduate, your program will focus on courses that give you a deeper and broader understanding of the subject you've chosen to major in. But what if, at the end of your junior year, you realize the subject area doesn't meet your expectations? That's okay; you haven't made an irrevocable commitment. You can change your mind, change your major, and move on to study something that you are truly excited and enthusiastic about. The worst that can happen is that you spend a year longer in college.
As you think ahead to graduation, a year or so in the future, you have more decisions to make, plus some questions to ask. Don't delay. Take your questions to the career counseling office for information and advice:
- What is the employment outlook for people in my field?
- Is my vision problem going to limit my options for advancement?
- Is a graduate degree essential?
- Can I start working in the field with a bachelor's degree and go to graduate school while I'm working?
- Are there fellowships or teaching assistant positions available to help me pay for postgraduate study?
You may have some other questions that are best answered by your academic advisor:
- Given my grade point average, am I likely to get into one of the top graduate schools in my field?
- What do you consider the top school in this field?
- Should I take a special prep course for the admission exam?
- Do you know someone currently working in the field I can talk to for advice?
The last question above is an important one. It's a first step toward developing a network of peers and leaders in your field—people who share your professional interests; with whom you can explore issues, ideas, and concerns; with whom you can collaborate on projects. Networking takes some effort at the beginning. You have to put aside shyness and reach out to people you don't know; not be put off when phone calls or e-mail messages go unanswered. You have to sense when persistence verges on becoming peskiness. But keep in mind that people like to be recognized as experts in their field, are generally willing to share their knowledge, and welcome fresh ideas from people who are new to the field.
Also keep in mind that visual impairment is not a barrier to achievement in any profession that does not require good vision. While you wouldn't make it as a jet pilot, ship's captain, or surgeon, for example, there are many outstanding professional women and men who are blind or visually impaired:
- Chief executive officers of major organizations
- Physical therapists
- College presidents
The list could go on indefinitely, but you get the idea. Visit CareerConnect® to learn more about the jobs currently being performed by people who are blind or visually impaired. And using CareerConnect's free, online mentor match, you can chat with successfully employed blind adults about career paths you're considering.