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Lauren You're an Illini! Why I tried So Hard to Get into Just One College

Lauren Bryant

            Hello AbilityLinks blog readers! I haven’t posted on this blog in quite some time, and I hope this blog post will explain, at least in part, why I’ve been away for so long. As you may remember from my last blog post, I was attending the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education (ICRE) down in the city. This program helped to teach physically disabled young adults independent living skills. ICRE only lasts for two years though, so the question then became, what would I do now? There were several possibilities, including community college, but only one truly appealed to me, one I’ve talked about on this blog before: going to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I had applied there twice before; once in my senior year of high school, and once again about two years ago. Unfortunately, I was denied, and I was told it was mainly due to my low ACT math score.

Starting in the summer of 2015, I began to prepare myself to take the ACT for a third time that October. My initial ACT math score was a 19, but the result of this attempt was much improved; I had gotten a 24!

With my improved score in hand, I re-applied to U of I in December. Two months passed, until suddenly the day came when I would receive my decision. It wouldn’t get posted until around 4:30 that afternoon, so I spent the entire day waiting with baited breath. Finally, the decision was available on U of I’s website. I was greeted with the message, ‘Lauren, you’re an Illini!’ I had finally made it in!

            Some of you might be wondering why I tried so hard just to get into one college. Being severely, chronically and physically disabled makes it hard to find a college I could attend where I would be able to live on campus versus commuting. Many colleges offered the bare minimum of accommodations, most of them being purely academic; none of these would enable someone with as severe a disability as myself to live independently on campus. I always knew I wanted to go to college; but I wasn’t sure how I would overcome this hurdle. When I was considering my options for college, I often found it difficult. My friends had to worry about tuition, whether the school had the program they wanted, and the location. I had to also worry about their disability services, accessibility, and distance from home. U of I, then, was the best choice I could have made for a college. It’s known as one of the top schools in the country for students with physical disabilities.

            Besides the obvious moving in and prep work, there was always a question of cost. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to be a recipient of the Marianjoy Scholarship this year! I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities this scholarship has already given me. It’s amazing that such an inclusive, helpful scholarship is available to students with disabilities.  And now comes the age-old question, the one I’ve been fielding for the past four months…”so, what’s your major?”

The short answer is that I don’t actually have one. The longer answer is that I am currently undecided. I’m taking some general education courses for a while until I know for sure what I want to major in. Right now I’ve got a few majors in mind, including workplace training and development, as well as digital environments for learning, teaching, and agency. Both of these fall under the college of education, which is somewhere I never thought I could end up!

            I don’t move in until August 15th, so expect some more blog posts as the summer goes on! Bill and I plan on continuing our relationship while I’m away, and I’d love to post something once I get all settled in with classes and whatnot.