Skills Needed for College

The academic, personal, and social skills that are needed to succeed in college are very different from those required in high school.

Study Skills

The academic demands of college are far greater than those of most high schools. Students will be required to use notetaking, study, test-taking, and time-management skills that may not have been necessary in high school. It is important that students develop these skills before they begin college classes.

  • Begin to develop adequate time-management skills. Use a master calendar to begin keeping track of appointments, due dates, etc.
  • Learn to study independently, without the assistance of the resource teachers or parents. You will not have access to this type of assistance in college.
  • Take classes/seminars in notetaking skills. The ability to take notes is essential at the college level.
  • Research test-taking tips. In college, students take tests in all different formats, multiple choice, short answer, and essay. Practice taking tests with these different formats so that you are familiar with them once you begin college.

Once you begin college, keep the following tips in mind. These tips will help you succeed in college:

  • Never miss class! This is one of the most important things to remember in college. Each instructor will have a different policy on attendance, and missing too many class periods can cause you to fail the class, even if your grades are okay. Also, the more classes you miss, the more information you miss. Attendance is absolutely essential!
  • Review and keep the syllabus for each class! The syllabus gives you information on course requirements, due dates, attendance policies, policies on make-up work, and information on how to contact your instructors.
  • Get to know your instructors! Next to never missing class, knowing your instructors is the most important thing you can do for yourself once you are in college. Your instructor is the expert in his/her class. The instructor can give you information on how to study for exams, where to find information for projects and papers, and what you can do to succeed in class. Also, if instructors know who you are, recognize your face when you are in class, and know you are sincere in wanting to succeed, they are more likely to assist you if you are struggling in class.
  • Use  your approved classroom accommodations! If you are approved to use specific classroom accommodations, USE THEM. Accommodations are provided to level the playing field and give you an equal opportunity to succeed in college. They will not benefit you if you don’t use them.
  • Become familiar with other types of assistance provided by your college! Each college will have other types of academic assistance available to all students. Familiarize yourself with what is available, and take advantage of this additional assistance should you find you need it. Again, it won’t help you if you don’t use it!

Independent Living Skills
In addition to study skills that may be new to students, there will also be everyday living skills that students may not have had to use before.

Students should:

  • Know how to handle everyday living skills such as doing laundry, paying bills, balancing a checkbook, cooking, getting the oil changed in the car, etc.
  • Be familiar and compliant with medical needs concerning medication and health problems. If ongoing medical and/or psychological treatment is needed, arrangements should be made in advance to continue that care while the student is away at college. Students taking medication should be sufficiently mature to remain compliant with medication instructions without daily input from parents or doctors.
  • Understand that the environmental, academic, and social structure provided by parents and teachers will not be in place in college. With this lack of structure comes an increased need for responsibility in decision-making and goal-setting.
  • Know how to interact appropriately with instructors, college staff, roommates, and peers. Appropriate social interaction and communication are essential at the college level of education.
  • Be comfortable asking for help when needed. The transition from high school to college can be overwhelming socially and academically. Students should know when they need help and should be able to reach out and ask for that help.

Self-Advocacy Skills
Students who are able to advocate for themselves and who can make their needs known in a positive and assertive way are more likely to experience academic and personal success. Below are some tips on how to advocate for yourself.

  • Accept your disability. Shame and embarrassment can prevent you from getting the assistance and support needed to help you succeed.
  • Know your specific disability and how it impacts you so that you can talk about it with others if needed.
  • Admit your disability to others. You cannot be a successful self-advocate if you hide your disability and needs from those who may be able to help you.
  • Understand your learning style. Understanding your learning style can help you articulate your academic needs and ask for appropriate assistance.
  • Realize how other issues might interfere with your self-advocacy. Many young people with disabilities struggle with low self-esteem, communication difficulties, shyness and other personal self-image issues that might negatively impact the ability to be a positive self-advocate. It is important to recognize these issues so that the healing process can begin.
  • Know what you need.  Students should be able to articulate clearly what they need so that if those needs are not met, the student can advocate for more appropriate assistance.
  • Anticipate your needs in each class. Don’t wait until later in the semester to start thinking about accommodations or other types of assistance in a class. Begin the first day of class thinking about what type of assistance you might need in each particular class and discuss those needs with your instructor.
  • Know your rights and responsibilities. Students should be familiar with their legal rights and responsibilities. Knowing your rights and responsibilities will help you advocate appropriately for the assistance you may need.
  • Be willing to compromise. Students should be willing negotiate and compromise when necessary in order to receive the most appropriate assistance in the class. A willingness to compromise and work with an instructor will help to build trust and respect.
  • Know where to go for support. Everyone needs support occasionally, even those who can successfully advocate for themselves. Become familiar with the assistance provided by your college or university so you know where to go should you need assistance.
  • Plan for the future. In order to really advocate for yourself, you need to think about where you want to be in the future. When you have a very clear plan for the future, you will be better able to see the reason for your education today.

Assistive Technology Skills
Assistive technology for people with disabilities has revolutionized education for this population of people. Students with disabilities are strongly encouraged to become familiar with the different types of assistive technology that are now available in order to gain as much benefit as possible from these wonderful tools. Types of technology include, but are not limited to:

  • Voice Recognition Software. This type of software allows a student with learning disabilities or disabilities that impact manual dexterity to speak directly into a microphone and have the computer do the writing.
  • Reading Software. This type of software allows a student to scan reading materials into the computer and have the computer read it back. This software works well for students with vision problems and certain types of learning disabilities.
  • Screen readers. Screen readers are for those who are blind or have low vision. This software allows these students access to computer-based information by reading what is on the computer screen.
  • CCTV for enlarging text.
  • FM Amplification systems for those who are hard of hearing.
  • Specialized keyboards and computer desks.