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Feeling Unprepared for College | #WeBelongInCollege Stories

Last updated February 15, 2023

The entire college process may seem daunting, but with a lot of support and preparation, it does get easier. Find out how these students dealt with being unprepared for college and what strategies they took to overcome it. 

Karoline’s #WeBelongInCollege Story on Remedial Math

The college application process is complicated and stressful. Listen to the problems that Karoline faced while applying to college and how she persisted. 

Sebastian’s #WeBelongInCollege Story

When Sebastian compared his grades and test scores to his peers who were getting into college, he started to question whether he belonged. His family and friends believed in him and thanks to their support, he too came to believe that he does belong in college. 

Tiana’s #WeBelongInCollege Story

Tiana lost confidence and came very close to giving up because she was comparing herself to students who were getting into competitive colleges. She decided to stop comparing herself to others. Instead, she reminded herself that she was smart, had great potential, and deserved to go to college just like anyone else. 

Maria’s #WeBelongInCollege Story

Despite feeling strong pressure to become the first in her family to attend college, Maria questioned whether she belonged. She wasn’t sure how she would be able to pay for college given her immigration status. It was when she saw that she wasn’t alone, and so many other undocumented students were also enrolling, that she knew she belonged in college.

Austin’s #WeBelongInCollege Story

After comparing his SAT scores and GPA to his other classmates, Austin started to question if he belonged in college. After joining a youth development program, he had the chance to meet successful professionals. He learned they had also once questioned if they belonged, and then realized what he needed to do to succeed.

Emily’s #WeBelongInCollege Story

Emily’s dream from a young age was to be a registered nurse. But the dream felt elusive as she struggled in the foster care system. She experienced homelessness and hunger. How could she become a nurse if she could not even take care of her most basic needs? In her story she explains how she came to realize that it was possible and that she most definitely belonged in college.

Cameron’s #WeBelongInCollege Story

It is not surprising that Cameron questioned if he belonged in college. As someone with an autism spectrum disorder, the odds are against him. Cameron urges other students dealing with autism to be strong and fight for their dreams because “We belong in college just like our typical peers.”

"My name is Cameron Vinson, and I have autism. For a person with autism, the outlook for future is even more uncertain than that of someone who develops typically. One statistic that I read found that fewer than 20 percent of students who have autism (or more appropriately Autism Spectrum Disorder) graduate college within 5 years after starting.1 So, for my parents and me, college was something that turned into a big question mark. 

When I was young, I didn’t go to preschool like other kids. Instead, I worked long hours each day with college students who taught me skills and with speech, physical and occupational therapists to learn all the things that my typical peers had just picked up by observing. I started many years in special education, and going to college looked very unlikely. 

The thing that turned everything around for me was music. I was ready to give up on school because I didn’t see the point of how all this work that I didn’t like to do was going to benefit me. But, my parents decided that I might like to do music since school was such a struggle. They signed me up for private music lessons. At first, I started on guitar. I learned the notes and practiced for a couple of years, but I eventually asked to try drums, and that’s what I decided I really loved. 

One day, the middle school band played at my school, and I made it a point to try to get out of the special education school that I had been sent to so that I could play drums in that band. After a lot of persistence, I made it to the middle school and got to play in the band. I was even allowed to play the drum set for the 8th grade promotion ceremony. 

After middle school, I continued band in high school. This past school year, I participated in marching band. It was probably the most difficult thing I have ever tried, but my teachers and band- mates helped me succeed. Because I was the only kid in my band in special education, I decided to try hard to get into regular classes to challenge myself. I have now been able to succeed in academic, honors, and advanced placement classes. 

While I thought for years that I would not go to college because of my struggles with social skills, reading, and communication, I now believe that I belong in college. I plan to study computer science when I graduate, and I hope to participate in music and fine arts while I go to college as well since music is what brought me motivation to succeed. It is my hope that my story might make a difference for someone else with autism, whether your motivation is from music, art, or something else that you excel at, you don’t have to accept your difference as a disability. We belong in college just like our typical peers, and we can make a meaningful contribution to society if given the chance."


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