Transition 3: What Skills do Students Need?


“I work with students with learning disabilities at the high school level. Many of them are hoping to attend college but few know what to expect. I am not sure how to help them. Can you provide some information about the transition?”—Timothy, Va.

Additional Info:

In Part 1 of our Transition series, Jennifer Lindstrom defined the differences in legislation guaranteeing access to programs in high school and college. In Part 2, Dr. Lindstrom identified the differences in services available to students with learning disabilities at the college level. In this final part of our Transition series, Dr. Lindstrom describes some of the other factors that are important in the transition process.


The transition from high school to college requires changes in many ways of thinking and acting for students with learning disabilities. It demands that students are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and they identify sources of support for their needs. Legislation and disability services offices provide access to higher education but that is very different from guaranteeing success. Students need study, self-advocacy, and technology skills and supports to make the college experience a good one.

Study Skills
Students should understand how they learn and how they process information best, and they must apply this to study situations. Developing and using efficient and effective strategies for taking notes, managing time, reading texts, and taking tests is important. If study skills are weak, students should ask their Disability Service Provider what campus resources are available to them.
Self-Advocacy Skills
In college, students with learning disabilities are responsible for requesting accommodations, speaking to faculty, and seeking out resources for themselves. Therefore, students must be able to understand their learning disability and specifically how it impacts their learning and be able to advocate for themselves in order to be successful in academic pursuits. Students with disabilities who understand their rights and responsibilities are much better equipped to succeed in postsecondary school. Relying on the support of family, friends, and fellow students, including those with disabilities, is also important.
Information and communication technology skills are essential in postsecondary environments. Colleges expect students to be able to use word processing, email, internet, and other programs on a regular basis. By using computing technology for such tasks as reading and writing, communication, and searching the internet, students with learning disabilities are capable of handling a wider range of activities independently. Students are encouraged to take advantage of opportunities in high school by learning to use not only mainstream computer technologies, but assistive technology as well. Special programs and hardware such as speech to text, word prediction, keyboards, pointers, and screen magnifiers can assist students in using computing technology skillfully and in ways that enhance learning.
Additional Resources
Association for Higher Education and Disability (2004). AHEAD best practices
disability documentation in higher education. 
Retrieved September 20, 2007 from
Joyce, D., & Rosen, E. (2006). Transitioning high school students with learning
disabilities into postsecondary education: Assessment and accommodations.
Communiqué, 35(3), 39–42. cq353postsec.aspx
Learning Disabilities Association of America

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (2007).

To cite this article, please use the following format: Lindstrom, J. (2007, January 10). Expert connection: Transitioning from High School to College. Retrieved from