By Bill O'Connor
Lauren Bryant, AbilityLinks volunteer & intern at AbilityLinks is prepping for her next step in her academic career, walking down the halls of one of two Big Ten schools.
In our interview with Lauren, she gives us her perspective as an incoming college student with a disability (osteogenesis imperfecta), tips on applying to college and what comes next.
1. When did you start to develop a plan for your college career, and what kind of target of studies are you selecting?
Lauren Bryant: I started at looking at the University of Illinois when I was 13, because people discussed my future options with me after high school. My stepmother showed me an article from the Chicago Tribune, and it made me think that I wanted to attend school away from home, but my parents wanted to have me home in case of any medical issues based on my disability.
2. When you found out about Illinois’ state of art dormitory for people with disabilities, what kind of advantages could this dorm provide for you?
LB: I read this article, and I saw pictures, but the thing that was the kicker was the wireless assistance system that would be available 24 hours a day, as well as furniture that was adjustable to different heights. For a shortie like me, that makes a difference! J Another advantage was the dorm’s security system, where we could use our identification card with a quick scan to enter our living space.
3. What was the process in applying to the U. of I. as a student and, specifically, as an entering student with a disability?
LB: I did find it interesting that full disclosure of my disability was not required in applying to Illinois or any other college, but I do think that there has to be a time and place to disclose to anyone at school, work or any other major life activity.
On the positive side, preconceptions of a student’s disability are erased, and you are showing that you are prepared to apply for a major step in life. On the negative side, if you don’t disclose your disability, you can miss out on resources that assist you in your college career.
I found that many schools did not have a strong disability resource area, and as that college tuition is expensive, this is something that is vital to some of the student body. The schools that I applied to have a strong disability resource center.
4. What other schools have you applied to? What is your insight on them?
LB: I applied to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The proximity to home was a primary factor. My stepmom is a transition specialist at Core Academy, and through her research and word-of-mouth referrals, I had to apply. Their student organizations, particularly the forensics team, are very strong. Also, Wisconsin has a strong business vertical, and with my target being human resources, Wisconsin was too good to pass up.
5. Any tips for those that are applying to college?
LB: APPLY EARLY! You’ll have a much better chance of being accepted to a school, as you will be facing a smaller student pool. Also, being early allows a better handling of applying of services.
6. How about scholarship applications? Have you applied to any?
LB: I applied for one already, and I am also targeting the Marianjoy Scholarship Program. I have competitive high school transcripts, school is expensive, and I am quite competitive and confident in my abilities.
7. Anything else Lauren?
LB: Don’t panic after you apply - after you drop the application into the mailbox, or click “submit” on your computer, you have to wait. That’s the hardest part, but I’m sure that I’ll be crying, excited and a little nervous all at once.
8. Thanks Lauren! We hope that you can contribute to our blog entries in the near future!
LB: I hope to work with you in the future as well!
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