Step two: applying for mainstream colleges

Mainstream colleges are becoming a more popular choice for vision impaired students.

How do I decide what the right mainstream college is for me?

The support available will vary from college to college. To ensure you can get the best out of your education it is important to research your options to find out which one is right for you.

There are different factors to take into consideration such as teaching support, location, learning options and accessibility. Read below for a helpful breakdown of what to consider when making your decision.

Online research – all colleges will have a dedicated website. You can find out loads of useful information by researching the one you want to attend online and check how they can support you throughout your studies.

Here is a helpful list of mainstream colleges for you to begin your search.

 Plan a visit – It’s important to firstly set out a list of colleges you are interested in and then arrange a visit. This is always a great way to get a feel for the college and can assist your decision. There should be a contact at the college who leads on supporting students with a disability, that you can ask to speak to directly.

COVID-19 visit arrangements – planning a visit to your preferred college may be a little different due to COVID-19 restrictions. Contact individual colleges to find out what arrangements are in place, many may have a virtual online tour that you can check out.

Speak with support staff and students – this is a good way to find out information that may not be readily available to you online or just by visiting the college. Prepare some questions beforehand on what you want to know. By speaking with support staff, you can discuss your learning needs and check how they have helped other people in a similar position to get the most from their studies.

More information on what type of support may be available to you is expanded on in step three: getting the right support in place.

Speaking with students who may also have a vision impairment and have attended the college can be a really useful way to see how they have experienced learning within the mainstream environment.

Accessibility, location, and orientation – these three factors will play a big part in your journey throughout college and can determine how easily you will settle in. Whilst you probably get the best understanding of this from visiting, it is recommended to speak to support staff at the college or anyone else who is responsible for ensuring accessibility within the building to find out if it’s the right place for you.

Helpful tips 

Give yourself plenty of time. As always be as organised as you can. Plan which colleges you are interested in, do your own independent research, and visit them to ensure they are right for you.

Mainstream colleges are for everyone. This may mean that they aren’t always best prepared for supporting people with vision impairment, but don’t let this put you off. By visiting and asking the right questions, they can put the right preparations in place to give you a good learning experience by better understanding what you need.

Think about the future. It may feel daunting at first, but further education can set you on your career path so try to give some thought to what the college can offer you educationally as well as professionally, for example; work experience, volunteering opportunities and progression routes/connections into Higher Education.

Check out reports online. Ofsted’s reports on colleges and their rating as an educational provider may support you with additional accessibility information.

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