College Survival Skills

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Tips for students with disabilities to increase college success

Congratulations! You have decided to go to college—excellent decision. A college education can increase your opportunities for success. However, you will find the college learning environment different from that of high school. You will need more self-monitoring skills than you needed in high school. Teachers and parents will be making fewer decisions for you. Be prepared to face an increased level of academic competition and to have less contact with your instructors. You will be more responsible for your learning, and for acquiring support services.

If you have a disability this includes dealing with a new and more complex process for screening accommodations you may need for success.

As a student with a disability, it is critical that you understand your disability and how it affects your ability to learn and participate in the college experience. Understanding your rights and, equally important, your responsibilities as a college student with a disability are also critical to your success. The office of disability support services at the college you plan to attend can help you reach these goals. This office can play a key role in your success and will refer you to other areas on campus where support services are available.

Many students believe that if they are interested in college and motivated to learn, they will be successful—this is not enough! You need skills in reading, writing, listening, and studying. Many students, however, have not developed a systematic approach to study skills. In college, your instructors will take for granted that you have these skills, that you can read, write, listen, take notes, and complete exams and assignments effectively. Plan to be a successful student—start college with survival skills!

No two people learn in exactly the same manner. Everyone has unique ways of processing information. It is vital that you understand your own learning style and use this knowledge to create strategies tailored to your personal strengths and information processing skills. Although some techniques may apply to a specific area, it is important to develop strategic problem solving skills that transfer across the curriculum.

Tips for Success

What follows is a list of suggested study skills and strategies that may be helpful to you as you make the transition from high school to college. These tips are paraphrased from interviews of Mentors, Scholars, and Ambassadors in DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) programs at the University of Washington. As participants in DO-IT, they are either preparing for college, participating in college, or sharing their past college experiences as youth with disabilities. Consider these suggestions as you build your own study skills inventory.

In summary, to maximize your success in college:

  1. Develop strategies, study skills, and a network of support!
  2. Attend class.
  3. Arrive on time, pay attention, and participate in class discussions and activities.
  4. Talk to the instructor. Ask questions.
  5. Complete and check all work. Turn in neat and clear assignments.
  6. Monitor your progress. If you begin to fall behind, ask for help.
  7. Stay in contact with the office of disability support services and your professors.

Adapt these tips to fit your unique learning style and needs. Ask friends and classmates about the techniques they use. Never be afraid to try a new method. And, remember that you are responsible for your success.

Additional Resources


DO-IT's Short videos and accompanying brochures help you prepare for and succeed in college and may be freely viewed online at Titles of particular relevance include

All videos may also be purchased in DVD format.

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


The contents of this publication were developed under the U.S. Department of Education grant, #P116B71441. Any opinions or recommendations expressed in these materials do not necessarily reflect the views of DO-IT's funding sources.

Copyright © 2012, 2008, 2006, 2000, University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy these materials for educational, non-commercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.