When I began searching for a college, I was filled with nervous excitement. Like many of my peers, I was excited to be independent, but I also feared how I would handle the responsibility and independence of college.
Everyone who goes to college has these feelings. But my nerves were due in part to my disability. Despite having cerebral palsy, I've lived a very independent life. I can walk some, and I use a combination of manual wheelchair and motorized scooter to get around.
I knew that a small college was the right fit for me from the start. I work best in small settings and enjoy getting to know people one-on-one.
I loved the environment of a small college. I toured large universities, where I would have to be picked up by a campus van and driven to class. I didn't want to depend on others to get around campus. From an accessibility standpoint, Grinnell's small, compact campus was an advantage. I could navigate the campus on my own.
Coming from Minneapolis, Minn., the town of Grinnell was also exciting to me. The small town was a new experience and refreshing. I saw it was easy to get to most places you need, even when using a wheelchair or scooter.
As part of my college search, before I visited any campus I looked on its website for clues as to how receptive it might be to accessibility. I was impressed that Grinnell dedicated an entire page of its website to accessibility, explaining much more than just where to park on campus.
From the moment I stepped on campus at Grinnell, I felt welcome. The students are some of the friendliest people I have met. As a senior in high school, I remember sitting in on a class on a prospective-student day. The class was sitting around a large, long table. I sat in the middle, but as students came in, I started to get nervous and tried to retreat to the back of the classroom, away from the table. "No, stay!" said a girl next to me, and several of her friends shifted their chairs at the table to accommodate my wheelchair. They told me about their class, the material they were discussing, and even held their books open toward me during class so that I could look on.
I also felt welcome as a student with a disability. Having been on many college tours, I saw a key difference in how Grinnell reacted to me being on campus. I visited lots of schools that wanted to be more accessible but had only just begun to make changes or even realize that their campus was inaccessible. Though I considered Grinnell to already be quite accessible, the people at Grinnell recognized that there was still progress to be made. The College had a lot of goals in mind and planned many renovations to become more accessible. The key difference was that not only was Grinnell committed to change, it was actively making these changes. Since I have been a student, great strides in accessibility have been made on campus, such as the addition of a ramp at Mears Cottage, home of the English and history departments. I have no doubt that Grinnell will continue to strive toward a completely universal, accessible design.
In addition to an institution with strong academics and accessibility, athletics was an important part of my college decision. I have been a competitive swimmer since elementary school, and it is an extremely important part of my life.
I knew it was going to be a challenge to find a college that fit my three criterions: academic rigor, accessibility, and athletics. Grinnell College fit all three, and I had high expectations for this school. It has met every one of them. I can't imagine a better, more accepting place to spend four years of my life. I feel so fortunate to be a part of the Grinnell community. It is the community that makes this place so accepting, and so willing to support you in every way it can. That sense of support is invaluable.