Friday, March 31, 2017

College Journey - Video

Here's a presentation I did last summer on the college process for Hands & Voices New Mexico.  The lighting is not ideal for signing or lip-reading, but I made sure the YouTube captioning works.

College Journey - Text

     This was the basis for the College Journey - Video.  It is not word for word, but it contains my journey to college advice for aspiring college students.

     Hello everybody,  Thank you all for coming here.
     My name is Chloe Keilers, and I’ll be your speaker today.  I’m going to share with you my journey to Stanford and the college application process for someone who is D/HH.  Let me start by saying that I feel somewhat under-qualified for this task.  I have only just barely survived my first year of college and some of the points I will make are more of a “do as I say and not as I do” - for example start on a research paper early and not the week before!

     A bit about me.  This is my credential.  You can see my hearing ranges from some normal hearing in low frequencies to profound deafness in the high frequencies.  This explains why my first word was “uh oh” and why I still struggle with the “s” sounds.
     I wear hearing aids and practically grew up here in Los Alamos.  I used to go to the high school that right across the canyon over there, and managed to fit in with my hearing peers somewhat well.  Academics were easy to accomplish with my FM microphone and classroom accommodations, but social challenges were not so easy to conquer.  More on that later.
     Now I am a Stanford student.  My major is undecided, but I believe it will be something in the science area, astrophysics or chemistry?  I also love Italian and Literature.  Maybe I’ll do a double major?  Triple?  Maybe I shouldn’t spread myself too thin.
     So, how did I get here?
     First, I am very determined and always worked hard at whatever I attempted.  Sometimes with success, sometimes not so much.  Soccer was not my gift.  Violin was challenging, particularly because I didn’t like to practice and my new hearing aids squealed with the violin so close to my ears.  I eventually found what worked for me, cross country running and the cello.
     Second, I had excellent support at school from my IEP accommodations and great teachers and speech therapists, whom I like to call “Team Chloe.”  I also use a microphone with all my classes and am considering using it in social events and groups going forward.  There were occasional glitches along the way, but I always had a teacher, my mom or dad, and even me, to advocate for myself.
     Third, I started my transition to the college process very early.  Some people think it’s all about college apps Senior Year.  Or testing during Junior Year.  I suggest starting to think about it much earlier, even in Middle School!

College Process
     Much of my college transition process was the same for me as for my hearing peers.
     Middle School is a great time to start exploring passions.  Passions may change over time - don’t commit yourself to something you don’t love, but explore various academic, athletic, musical, and community service pursuits to see what makes you happy.  Between seventh and eighth grade I transitioned from violin to viola to cello.  I also started cross country running, which I had never tried before.  And I discovered my love for science by participating in science fairs.
     Freshman Year — I started visiting some colleges while on vacation and by way of attending some academic camps.  For the college camps and visits, I found it helpful to email the schools ahead of time, to let them know about my deafness and that I need them to use my FM microphone in classes or on tours.  You could let them know that you need an interpreter.  These trips are also a good time to find out what kind of accommodations they provide.  Visit the school’s OAE (office of accessible education).  Any school with federal funding has to provide accommodations, but their definition of accommodations may vary widely from what you need.  A fellow deaf student told me she was accepted to another good school, but they were not going to give her any accommodations other than using the FM microphone.  A better question to ask is how many deaf or hard of hearing individuals the school has admitted.
     Sophomore Year — First year of taking the PSAT tests and I needed to make sure I received the same testing accommodations from my IEP on these national tests.  Interesting situation arose when the Princeton Testing (PSAT, SAT, AP) group provided extended time accommodations, but the ACT Test did not.  Their argument was that unless I tested “below average” due to my hearing loss, they would not provide anything other than written copies of the instructions.  Just because you can get by without accommodations, doesn’t mean you should accept that answer.  Just because someone tells you that you can survive without extended time, interpreters, microphones, preferential seating, etc. does not mean you should—does not mean it’s okay.  You need to reach your own potential.  This is when you should be assertive.  I actually took the PSAT without accommodations as a sophomore, then with accommodations as a junior.  This resulted in about a 15% increase in writing and overall scores.
     Junior Year — Started taking AP classes, one of which, AP Language Arts, had the best final ever.  Our teacher had us write the general Common App essay questions as the test.  Brilliant move, because it got all of us thinking about what to write about ourselves to help us stand out.  One of the questions involved “greatest challenge faced.”  Hmmm, what could I write about?  Oh yeah, being deaf in a hearing world!  Pretty much writes itself.  But the important thing is not to whine about it.  Maybe deafness isn’t your greatest challenge, pick something that matters, and share your story from the heart.
     Senior Year — Time to get really serious.  It was also the time to meet with Division of Vocational Rehabilitation or DVR.  This office can help with transition needs such as equipment and career or vocational counseling.  Then there were application deadlines on top of deadlines, and new terms to decipher.  Restricted Decision?  Early Action?  Regular Admission?  And then scholarship applications.  There are a myriad of scholarships out there, many select based on unique interests.  There is a list of scholarships available specifically for D/HH students on  Then there is the waiting.  Waiting….  And then the news—I’m in!

     Stanford was my first choice college, and I was thrilled to be accepted.  You’d think with all the high school work done, I could now rest easy?  That was not the case by any stretch of the  imagination.  There was more work to be done!
     As always, there were classroom accommodations to consider.  Much of what I received at Stanford mirrored my high school needs.  I was excited to try CART, Communication Access Real Time Translation.  Like the close captioning that appears on TV, but sent to my iPad. Excited to try, but in the end, decided it wasn’t a good fit for my needs.
     The biggest transition challenge was living away from home for the first time.  In some ways, my parents often acted the role of interpreter for me.  Going to college and living on my own, meant I needed to pick up the slack and not rely on parents for communication help or that gentle nudge (a.k.a. “kick in the butt”) to try new things.  I met with the OAE, got the classroom accommodations I needed, but more importantly, dorm room accommodations.  Horns/strobe/vibrating bed were in order.  Not gonna sleep through that fire alarm!  Like all freshmen everywhere, I had to do my own laundry and manage my own time.

Final Advice
     What I know now that I wish I knew then…
     First piece of advice - be assertive.  This is a philosophy that goes far beyond college and should be practiced from the womb to college and beyond.  My mom would always tell me be like a New Yorker— a little bit loud, a lot assertive. 
     Second piece of advice - try new things.  College is a time of explorations - when you are away from home and not fully an adult.  So you can watch that superhero movie which your parents deemed too goofy in high school.  It is a time to test your limits and aptitudes.  There will be things you have never heard before- perhaps taiko drums or quidditch teams.  So go out, try things, let nothing hold you back.
     Third piece of advice - do not spread yourself too thin.  Most likely you will have four years to enjoy college and you should not burn yourself out in the first year or even first week.  Again do as I say not as I do - I nearly did burn myself out in the second quarter.
     Anticipate! - There is so much information about college courses, activities, and more, all available on websites and Facebook pages.  I encourage you to check all these resources out BEFORE you arrive on campus.  It will help you transition if you prepare in advance.
     Final piece of advice - Ask for help.  Life at college seemingly operates at 100 mph.  You need to rely on people.  You can be strong but do not be afraid to ask for help.  Roommates, dorm mates, RA’s, Tutors, Professors.  These people can all be part of your team.  Find your “Team Chloe.”  One of my more stressful moments was an impending research paper deadline, but I found great camaraderie in finishing up my paper with seven other dorm mates all feverishly typing away during breakfast for a 10 AM deadline.  Great bonding moment with lots of crying!  And sometimes you might be the person helping someone else.  You might be part of someone else’s team.

Thank you
     I hope this information has been helpful to you.  While I did face some communication challenges, particularly in dorm social settings, I learned a lot about myself my freshman year — I can do it!

Stay tuned!