Succeeding in Graduate School

[PDF graphic] PDF Version (323 KB)      -      get Acrobat Reader

Tips from graduate students with disabilities

Women, people with disabilities, and some racial/ethnic groups—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians—are underrepresented in challenging fields such as science and engineering. They constitute smaller percentages of science and engineering degree recipients and of employed scientists and engineers than they do of the overall U.S. population. Additionally, scientists and engineers with disabilities are more likely than those without disabilities to be unemployed or out of the labor force.

Real World Advice

AccessSTEM and AccessComputing project staff, with funding from the National Science Foundation, are working toward increasing the success of students with disabilities in earning degrees and securing careers. In both projects, staff seek advice from individuals with disabilities who have "lived it" to better understand contributors to success.

In an active e-mentoring community, individuals with disabilities and mentors shared advice about how individuals with disabilities can be successful in graduate coursework. Their disabilities include vision, hearing, mobility, learning, mental illness, attention, and other chronic health. Their experiences, perceptions, and advice can help others, including those with disabilities, transition to, succeed in, and graduate with advanced degrees. Advice related to transitioning to a graduate program are included in the companion publication Moving On: Transitioning to Graduate School at

Note that some of the comments shared below have been modified for clarity

Graduate School Success Overall

Supportive Relationships


Course and Time Management

Writing Your Dissertation

Engage in AccessSTEM and AccessComputing

For Students

If you are a high school or college student with a disability and are interested in pursuing a career in computing or in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), consider joining the AccessSTEM or AccessComputing team. These teams provide opportunities for you to connect with mentors online and gain experience in your field of interest through projects and internships. For the AccessSTEM Team application, visit . For the AccessComputing Team application, visit

For Educators and Employers

AccessSTEM and AccessComputing also host Communities of Practice (CoPs) where individuals share perspectives and expertise and identify practices that promote the participation of people with disabilities in STEM and computing fields. For the full list of AccessSTEM CoPs, visit For the full list of AccessComputing CoPs, visit For further questions on opportunities available through AccessSTEM and AccessComputing email

AccessSTEM is directed by the DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center at the University of Washington (UW). AccessComputing is co-sponsored by the UW Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the DO-IT Center. The DO-IT Center serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs such as those in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology.

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


This publication is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #HRD-0833504, #CNS-1042260. Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Copyright © 2012, 2011, University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy these materials for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.