Perkins School for the Blind Transition Center

Helpful Hints From the Trenches: What to Expect in College

The first day of college can be a little scary just like any first day in a new school or a new grade. I would like to share with you some of my experiences and offer some helpful tips so you too can survive college and have a successful and positive experience.

What was very helpful for me in order to get used to the way that college works was that I took a summer college class at C.W. Post while I was still in high school. I got to experience what college life is really like; what to expect by doing so and what they expect from me.

College is pretty much what you did in high school, but now you are your own manager and have to advocate for yourself. In high school, I had teaching assistants that helped me out, coaching me, reminding me of things, and helping me navigate my way, but in college I am my own manager. So basically, I remember what they did to help me in high school and now I just do it myself. In your last years of high school try to practice doing what your assistants had done for you. The teaching staff in college will not remind you of daily homework or assignments. At the start of each class you get a syllabus, which is like instructions for the entire semester, and it is your job to follow that and plan ahead for future assignments that will be due later. My best advice is to read the textbooks so that you understand what is going on and to help keep up with the class.

High school English does not prepare you for college English! English class in college is completely different than English class in high school, and the style of writing can be quite difficult to get used to.

Make the Disability Support Services Office (DSSO) person your best friend! Set up ahead of time to meet with them as needed or like I do, once a week, so you can get help solving problems or concerns right away. Consider them to be your support team and lifeline to solving problems. The DSSO is also where you go to let them know you are a student with a disability so you can get accommodations like extended test taking time, copy of notes, etc.

Register for classes in-person with your academic advisor instead of registering online. This way you can pick the time of day that works best for you, like if you are a morning person or if you do better with the afternoon. Your academic advisor can give you an idea about the professors, their teaching style, personality, and if they are flexible and understanding of students with special needs. This is very helpful to know when picking your classes. For example, I had a problem last semester because I had several instructors that have different accents. On Fridays, I had back-to-back classes with professors that had accents. My computer professor had a Russian accent and my biology lab professor had a Middle Eastern accent and sometimes I found it difficult to understand them or transition from one to the other. Not to mention, on Tuesdays and Thursdays I had a professor with a French accent!

When dealing with class schedules, if you receive extended test taking time, make sure to plan a free block of time in your schedule in between classes to avoid conflicts with your other classes and that you have enough time to finish the tests.

Find a system to take your own notes that works best for you, even if you get a copy of notes. You can always rewrite them after class.

Self-advocate for yourself and become a self-manager. If you need help, ask for it. Find out who to go to for help and where, since college campuses are large and have a lot of separate buildings.

Take advantage of tutoring services and the writing center if you feel you need help. Sign up early so you can get a slot in the tutor’s schedule that works best for you.

Let the professor get to know you and, if needed, make an appointment with them if you need help or need to talk to them in private. All professors have office hours so make sure you get their office hours schedule. Professors also like class participation, so don’t hesitate to give them some input or ask a few questions now and then.

There is a lot of writing in college so do not let assignments back up by waiting until the last minute to do them. Make sure to use a flash drive and back up any work that you have done, and always carry it with you so if you need to change anything while on campus, you can get it done quickly.

Make sure to check your emails because, not only do you get them from your instructors, but you also get important notices and news from the college administrators and any clubs that you may have signed up for.

I hope that my advice has helped you to be able to prepare better for college. Good luck knowledge-seekers and I wish you all success in college!


Patrick Hourihane is twenty years old and was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD at age 8. He is currently attending his second year of college majoring in Forensic Science. Patrick made the Dean’s List in his freshman year and is a member of Phi Eta Sigma, freshman honor society.

Patrick has presented at the Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association (AHANY) Spring and Fall Conferences.

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