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Words of Wisdom on Transition from a College Freshman

How does a very talented, bright, highly motivated young woman with severe dyslexia succeed in college? How is she getting almost a 4.0 GPA, top grades in all her classes, without her mom sitting beside her, patiently reading every word in every book as she did for twelve years?

All incoming freshman experience some college jitters, but this driven young woman, Elizabeth, was justifiably concerned about succeeding in classes with hundreds of others students who didn’t have dyslexia. Her story about her transition should inspire many high school seniors in similar situations:

“When I applied to college, I asked for accommodations including readers for tests. I knew I had to have textbooks that were accessible. I was ready to do anything to show the world that I could not only succeed but thrive. I knew about Bookshare from a family friend, Susan Patch who is a Bookshare member. Aunt Susan, as I like to call her, insisted I get Bookshare before I went to college. Due to the severity of my dyslexia, I have always been unable to decipher print material. My mother read everything aloud to me as I grew from childhood stories into school textbooks and research materials. During high school my mother patiently and carefully read every page of material I needed. This method worked while I lived at home but knowing I was heading off to college demanded a change.

“I got my membership lined up and learned how to download a book. Aunt Susan gave me an IPad for Christmas before I graduated.  I was then able to start using Read2Go on the iPad, and found downloading books much easier. My life changed as I entered the world of accessible literature.

“As soon as I knew which college classes I’d be taking, I began to look for accessible versions of my books. In addition to accessible versions, I always purchase print copies of my textbooks – all my friends with dyslexia do – because we want to see what is on the page as well as hearing the text. I thought I was prepared with all my textbooks downloaded; however, in August, just two days before classes began, my schedule was changed. I was desperate! I checked all the various sources of accessible texts, and couldn’t find the book I needed anywhere. I emailed Bookshare franticly searching for the needed textbook. I learned I could purchase a book and send it to Bookshare to have it scanned and digitized for their library. I sent the book to Bookshare with a note, pleading with them to convert the book for me as quickly as possible. Within two weeks, the book was done and ready for me to start using. I know Bookshare can’t always convert college textbooks that quickly, but I’m eternally grateful to them for helping with this one book. Bookshare’s ability to process college textbook requests at incredible rate made all the difference in my first semester.

“Bookshare gave me an independence I never could have had without accessible books. It put me on an even playing field with my college colleagues. It has made it possible for me to be successful in each of my college courses.

“I would encourage all students to prepare as far in advance as possible to line up your accessible text books. Two weeks after a new semester starts, I begin to look for my books in all the various sources for the following semester. I email the professors asking them if they think there will be any change in the course reading for the next semester. I discovered a non-accessible textbook for a course I will be required to take the spring of 2014. After receiving confirmation from the professor that he will not be changing the edition of the text, I have ordered two copies of the textbook. I will send one to Bookshare to be scanned. Now every student who takes this course will have an accessible version to use along with a purchased text.

“I use Bookshare for all my assignments. For example, I had a 10 page paper to write for physics class. The topic was the ‘Acoustics of the Human Voice.’ The professor required 10 sources. I found 10 excellent sources on Bookshare. I also found some of the Bookshare sources in print at local libraries and the interlibrary loan system. Obtaining the accessible books in print enabled me to utilize the diagrams, making the most of my research. The paper isn’t due until the end of the semester, but I completed it before the end of spring break.”

When asked if she had any advice for students with dyslexia transitioning to college, she offered:

“Get Bookshare up and running before you go. Be sure you know how to download books. It’s easiest with Read2Go. The app is so user friendly and the books are very accessible. Begin your research as early as possible to find your books. Look for book lists through your college’s online bookstore. Send requests, with copies of the books if possible for quick turnaround time, to Bookshare.  Use every resource available to you to obtain the help you need to thrive. Contact your college disabilities director and use your college Center for Academic Success; they are your lifeline to achievement. Do not let dyslexia make you feel you cannot succeed, because you can.

“Bookshare allows me to consume content and comprehend in ways I never would be able to do without accessible books. I find it amazing; some college students who have the ability to read make excuses or are just uninterested in completing their reading assignments. As for me, I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to read every word.”

As you can see, Elizabeth is a very motivated young woman.

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