Succeeding in Graduate School: Tips from Graduate Students with Disabilities

By Marcy Hayes

CEI Note: While CEI tends to focus on preK-12 education, occasionally organizations request that we post information on related topics. In this case, the University of Washington asked for our assistance with circulating material on a new publication on succeeding in Graduate School

feat image 1Graduate school is a huge step in anyone’s life. When people think about graduate school, they think about long days, long hours, lots of research, a big final speech, and the biggest paper in their lives. Students who have disabilities have many more things to consider when wondering about graduate school.  Thankfully, a student with disabilities can succeed in college and graduate school due to updated assistive technologies. The book, College Success for Students with Physical Disabilities is one of many resources available to assist students.The University of Washington has a new resource, Succeeding in Graduate School: Tips from Graduate Students with Disabilities, which has resources from AccessSTEM and AccessComputing, projects funded by the National Science Foundation. Another valuable web site with information not only on supports but also on scholarships for students with disabilities is GoGrad.org

Considerations for Students with Disabilities

When students with disabilities consider graduate school, they may want to begin by gathering and reading information about the programs that are offered. Students may benefit by learning how to be proactive and how to speak up. Talks on certain graduate programs and webinars provide valuable information to assist with decisions about which graduate program to select.  

Goal setting can help students stay on track. Students should always set reasonable goals for themselves, have an open mind, and try to be flexible.  

The Early Stages of Graduate School

Once a student has made the decision about what graduate school to attend and what major to study, he or she should consider following a few tips:

assistive technologiesFirst comes selection of an advisor. A good advisor will listen to them, be their advocate, and fight for them and their desire to learn. The advisor will give students information about the disability support services and make sure that they have the most current and accurate documentation.  

Students should also proactively obtain the accommodations they need to become successful. Identifying mentors in their classes is critical for assistance with accommodations like note-taking and strategy-making. Students with disabilities also have access to the assistive technologies which can, as a result,  facilitate their research, writing, communications, and overall progress.

Making it to Graduation

Graduate students with disabilities can stay on track by starting early on all papers; especially their thesis or dissertation. Keeping a calendar and allotting time for research, reading, writing, and review/revision of papers can be helpful. While at school, students can avoid burning out by balancing work and fun, creating a routine, getting involved with school activities, and rewarding themselves once a week for their hard work.  Doing the research early for papers pays off in the long run, and making an annotated reference list early helps a lot as well. When writing always back-up files to avoid losing something after lot of effort, which can feel deviating.

Conclusion

Attending graduate school can be a very rewarding experience for many people, but especially for students with disabilities. For them, graduate school is a place that has long felt unattainable, but due to assistive technologies and the tips listed above, they can succeed and graduate. Today, graduate students with disabilities have more resources to assist them than ever before due to today’s latest technologies and supports such as information from the University of Washington and other centers dedicating to assisting students with disabilities.  


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