Preparing for College: An Online Tutorial

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A guide for high school students and their advocates

by Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

The transition from high school to college is a big step for everyone. Students with disabilities have even more things to consider than their nondisabled peers.

College-bound youth should begin preparing for postsecondary education and beyond while they are still in high school by selecting appropriate classes and earning good grades. In addition, they can begin to prepare for and to explore college options online. This publication shares a few Internet resources for college-bound teens with disabilities. If you use the online version of this brochure at you can simply click on each website address rather than type it into your web browser.

To be cautious, parents and teachers should always check out websites before recommending them to a child. Keep in mind that the content of a website may change over time; even if it was once a great resource for a teenager it may no longer be appropriate. Parents and teachers should also consider exploring websites side-by-side with a child.

If you find sites that are inaccessible to you or to someone else who has a disability (for example, they include video clips without captioning for individuals who are deaf), do something about it. Send email to the website sponsors requesting that they make their pages accessible to everyone. These situations provide opportunities for young people to practice skills in self-advocacy, as well as advocacy for others.

The following sections give advice to college-bound teens and resources for further exploration.

Plan steps you will take to prepare for college.

Think about all of the steps you will need to take to get ready for college studies, select a school, apply for acceptance, and succeed in postsecondary studies. Read the publication and view the video presentation at the following website:

College: You Can DO IT!

Find reasons to attend college and issues involved in getting there at the following website:

Preparing for Postsecondary Education

Know your learning style.

Are you a visual, auditory, or tactile learner? Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Are you a concrete thinker or an intuitive thinker? As you set college and career goals, it is helpful to know your learning style so that you can adjust your study habits to be most productive and build on your strengths. At the following website, you can read about learning styles in general and take short tests to discover your own learning style:

The Paragon Learning Style Inventory

Become academically prepared for college.

Take classes that will prepare you for college entrance requirements and earn good grades. Develop study skills that work for you. Also, prepare for standardized tests you might need to take, and, if necessary, arrange for disability-related testing accommodations. Consult the following website for more guidance regarding preparation for college studies:

Preparing Academically for College

Assess your skills, interests, and personality as you consider potential academic fields of study to pursue.

Selecting a college, a major field of study, and courses is easier if you have career areas in mind. It is also important, however, to keep your mind open to new areas of study and employment as you learn new things. It is common for people to wind up in careers that are perfectly suited to them that they hadn't even considered before they entered college. Besides seeking advice from family members, teachers, and career guidance counselors, you can expand your ideas about career options at following website:

Access Your Skills and Interests

Based on the Birkman Method, this twenty-four question, color-coded test at the following website can help you zero in on your ideal career:

The Princeton Review

You can assess your skills and learn about careers at the following website:

ISEEK Skills Assessment

At the following site, take a humorous quiz to reveal what medieval occupation suits you best:

The Kingdomality Personal Preference Profile

At the following website, enter skills you have or hope to acquire, and see what occupations best match your skill set:

Skills Search

Enter a college major and see what career choices match at the following website:

Skills Analysis and Training

Consider different types of degrees and schools.

Find out about all of your postsecondary academic options and decide which type of school is best for you, given your academic preparation, career interests, and personal preferences. Consider technical schools, community colleges, four-year universities, and other postsecondary options. Explore the following website:

Select a School

At the following website, see what occupations are listed when you select the average worker education level required—on-the-job training or an associate's, a bachelor's, or a higher degree:

Career OneStop

Consider challenges in transitioning from a two-year to a four-year college by reading the publication and viewing, if possible, the video presentation at the following website:

Moving On: The Two-Four Step (the two-year to four-year college transition)

Consider what accommodations you might need and learn what typical accommodations are provided on college campuses.

Colleges and universities are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities. What is considered "reasonable" varies from campus to campus. Each school either has an office (sometimes called Disabled Student Services or Disability Services) or a designated individual to whom you provide documentation and with whom you arrange for accommodations. The following resources include lists of typical accommodations provided by institutions of higher education:

Accommodation Strategies

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Typical Policies and Procedures

Explore colleges and universities.

You can learn a lot about colleges you hope to attend by exploring their websites. You can find out about entrance requirements, degrees offered, size, tuition, student services, and campus life. The following sites provide a good place to begin exploring postsecondary campuses:

Brain Track


Colleges, College Scholarships, and Online Degrees

Index of American Universities

Peterson's Education Portal

Consider funding options.

Life in college is full of expenses, expected and unexpected. There are financial resources to assist with and, in some cases, fully cover costs such as tuition, books, rent, lab fees, assistive technology, and application fees. Options include grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships. Talk to teachers, high school counselors, and staff in postsecondary disabled student services and financial aid offices, and explore the following websites.

Colleges, College Scholarships, and Online Degrees

College Funding Strategies for Students with Disabilities

Explore Financial Aid Options

FinAid: The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid

Get Money for College

Resources for Students with Disabilities in Need of Financial Assistance

Saving and Budgeting

Use technology to maximize your participation, productivity, and independence in learning.

Computer and network resources are essential in many college and work settings. Computer-related assistive technology makes it possible for people with a variety of disabilities to use these powerful tools. Take advantage of opportunities in high school and college to learn about and use computer and network technologies. Read the publications and, if possible, view the following video presentations:

Working Together: Computers and People with Learning Disabilities

Working Together: Computers and People with Mobility Impairments

Working Together: Computers and People with Sensory Impairments

Working Together: People with Disabilities and Computer Technology

Consult the following websites for more information about technology:

Closing the Gap

Find role models and mentors.

Engage in interactions with peers and adults during the process of preparing for college, attending college, and finding a career. Networking can occur through professional organizations, friends, and family, online and in person. Contacts with individuals who have disabilities can provide mutual assistance and support. Potential role models with disabilities can be found at the following websites:

DO-IT Snapshots

Famous People and Disabilities

Famous (and not-so-famous) People with Disabilities

Famous People with Disabilities

An example of a community of teens with disabilities preparing for college studies and linked to peers and adult mentors is DO-IT Pals. Information about how to join DO-IT Pals can be found at As an example of the value of networking, participants in the DO-IT electronic community offer the following advice to you as you prepare for college. Their suggestions reflect their personal experiences.

Pursuing postsecondary study is an appropriate goal for many young people, including those with disabilities. Finding the right program match requires academic preparation and research. Much of this work can take place on the Internet:


Parents, teachers, and students with disabilities can consult the following resources for additional information on activities for college preparation.

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology)

HEATH Resource Center

Mapping Your Future

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition

About DO-IT

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs such as those in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. Primary funding for DO-IT is provided by the National Science Foundation, the State of Washington, and the U.S. Department of Education. DO-IT is a collaboration of UW Information Technology and the Colleges of Engineering and Education at the University of Washington.

To order free publications or newsletters use the DO-IT Publications Order Form; to order videos and training materials use the Videos, Books and Comprehensive Training Materials Order Form.

For further information, to be placed on the DO-IT mailing list, request materials in an alternate format, or to make comments or suggestions about DO-IT publications or web pages contact:

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (fax)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane

Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners

An earlier version of this content appeared in: Burgstahler, S. (2004). Preparing for college...on the internet. Closing the Gap,23 (1).


The contents of this publication were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, #H133D010306. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Copyright © 2012, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2004, University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy these materials for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.