High School Transition

Student Success Stories

Photo of Lena Cook

"People I know
who made the
transition found
it a little harder
because of their
Having a
network of
students to turn
to can help
smooth that."

Lena Cook

Lena Cook is a student with Cerebral Palsy, but she hasn’t let that stop her from reaching her academic goals. She is currently in her third year of a bachelor of sociology program at the University of Saskatchewan. Lena completed a one-year business program at a community college after high school, and chose to attend university after having trouble finding work out of college.

Lena says that her transition from high school to college was relatively smooth, due in part to the fact that her mother was attending the same college at the time. She says her mother was able to introduce her to people at the school, and that her classes were spread out enough that she didn’t have to be on campus all day. While she also describes her transition to university as ‘pretty easy’, Lena does admit that there have been new challenges and situations she has had to adapt to. “I had a teaching assistant in high school,” Lena points out. “In university I don’t, so it’s a bit of an adjustment. But I’m pretty independent.”

She says that learning to be as independent as possible is one of the keys to success at the post-secondary level. Another key consideration is to learn how to best manage your time. “You need to try hard to stick to deadlines,” Lena says. “If you fall behind in university, you’re kind of screwed up.” Lena says part of her ability to manage her time has come from learning new study habits that are effective for her. She does her course readings as far in advance as possible, and makes sure she’s aware of deadlines early.

Although independence is important in post-secondary success, it doesn’t mean there aren’t people around to help. Lena says one of the more important things she did to ease her transition was to make early contact with the University of Saskatchewan’s disability resource centre. She met with center staff before starting classes, and was told about services available for students with disabilities (“I don’t know what I’d do without the note-taking service,” she wonders). The staff also helped her fill out loan applications. In addition, they have helped her deal with the occasional professor who isn’t as open to discussing her accommodation needs. For the most part, though,

Lena says her instructors have been very understanding and helpful as well. The University of Saskatchewan doesn’t have a disabled students’ group, but Lena notes that there are a number of students trying to get one started. She says she plans to get involved if a group is formed while she is still at the university. “I think it’s a really good idea,” she enthuses. “People I know who made the transition found it a little harder because of their disabilities. Having a network of students to turn to can help smooth that.”

Lena advises students with disabilities thinking about post-secondary education to find out as much information as they can about the school beforehand, and to keep on top of things once they’ve started their program. Above all, she says, “just go for it. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Fight for information and keep at people until you get the answers you need.”