Preparing Yourself for College

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Introduction by Jennifer Bechard
Blog by Ashley Snyder

Are you getting ready to graduate from high school and take the much anticipated leap to head off to college? This is a very exciting time in one’s life, but for individuals living with a complex medical condition like hydrocephalus it can also be a scary and intimidating step to take. We want you to know that you are not alone
and that there a programs and resources available to support and guide you through the transition process. Teens Take Charge (TTC) Advisory Council Member Ashley Snyder shares her personal experiences and offers some great advice and tips for her peers as they begin to venture off to college and into the adult world.

After hours spent on standardized tests and multiple pencils chewed to shreds, you finally get in to the school of your dreams. Thank goodness, right?! So you got where you wanted to go…but now what? College is one of the best opportunities of your life. Especially living with the challenges that hydrocephalus can present, if you know some basic tips and advice, college can be a walk in the park.

Currently, I am a sophomore studying speech pathology at Auburn University, and I have found the college transition to be pretty fun and easy, but there were some things that I definitely wish some kind soul would have told me on hindsight. One of the keys to college is communication with your professors. In a lecture hall of over two hundred students, it is easy to be lost, and just another face in the crowd. However, if you visit your professors at office hours or another meeting time that you set up together, you can get the individualized help you need, which is especially helpful if you have a hydrocephalus-related learning disability. If you require special accommodations, nearly all professors will meet them if you let them know about your special needs early in the semester. Extra test-taking time, a seat closer to the front board, and the opportunity to leave a few minutes early or arrive a few minutes late if you are wheel-chair bound are just a few of the accommodations that professors can and will make. Most college campuses also have an office of accessibility, where you can obtain handicap-parking passes, scholarships geared specifically to you, and a host of other valuable resources. The office of accessibility or its equivalent wherever you go, should definitely become your new best friend.

In addition to getting yourself set up in the classroom, it is also important to build yourself a new life away from home full of friends and fun. Try to get involved in one of the hundreds of organizations that there are on your new college campus. Whether it’s joining a sorority, becoming a member of the band, or working with tons of other students as a part of the Student Government, getting involved will help you meet people similar to you. And since you already have a common interest and will be spending a lot of time together, making friends should be super easy. That being said, since college is an all-new experience for you with an all-new set of peers, you can also make the decision of whom you want to tell about your hydrocephalus. When I came to college, I chose to only tell a very select few people. Regardless of whom you decide to tell, make sure that your roommate or someone you see every day knows about your condition – that’s best for your safety, just in case a problem should ever arise. Everyone else you can tell in your own time – it is your choice now, just like it is with so many other things now that you are a collegian.

It is so exciting to move away from home for the first time, and to finally be in charge of making your own decisions, almost completely on your own. Establish a routine for yourself, including waking up in time for class and breakfast, attending all of your classes, extra-curricular activities, maybe hitting the gym if that is something you usually do, and then establishing a schedule for bedtime. You will thank yourself for having a little bit of self-mandated order later.

I am so proud of every single person reading this who has achieved the milestone of being accepted into a college while living with hydrocephalus. You are fantastic, and a testament of what you can achieve when you set your mind to something. You have already accomplished something that many would have told you is impossible, and yet here you are living out your dreams. I know that with a little hard work and dedication all of you will go on to become the best doctors, nurses, school teachers or whatever you want to be. Always be you, and always be proud of it. Now that you have a little bit of advice for kicking tail at college as much as you have kicked hydro-tail, get on out there and chase your dreams – your future is waiting!

Resources for Teens and Young Adults

Teens Take Charge (TTC)

The Hydrocephalus Association’s new program – Teens Take Charge (TTC) – trains teenagers and young adults (and their siblings), who are affected by hydrocephalus, to become self-advocates with both health professionals and with their legislators. The program provides support, trainings, and awareness and fundraising opportunities so that teens can be an effective force in making their stories heard. HA has created a place for teens and young adults (ages 12 to 25) to talk via Facebook and Twitter; go check it out! Join us and help create a community of teens making changes happen!

College and Hydrocephalus Fact Sheet

Healthcare Transition Guide for Teens and Young Adults

2013 Hydrocephalus Association Scholarship

Grants and Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

Spina Bifida Association (SBA) Scholarship


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