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How to Succeed as a Student: Tips From an Honors Graduate

Updated on August 23, 2012

The Prize

The prize for academic success is a degree and the honor of wearing a cap and gown. It is a prize for all and all the more reason to celebrate when you have earned the prize with greater obstacles than most.
The prize for academic success is a degree and the honor of wearing a cap and gown. It is a prize for all and all the more reason to celebrate when you have earned the prize with greater obstacles than most.

Success: A Personal View

There are few things to compare with the pride and honor which comes to putting on a gown, adjusting the cap on your head. Then feeling the rush as the strains of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March swells and you begin to walk,

For the disabled student it is all the more sweet a victory. Not only have you taken on the academic challenge and been found equal to your task, you have beaten down the social barrier which sees you as disabled therefore not able to do anything too tiring or academic, you have stepped out and shown your equality to all those graduates around you who have not quite faced the problems you have faced to gain the prize.


Gaining the Prize: How Your College Can Help

Colleges in the United States are required by law to accommodate disabled students. The first point of contact at your chosen college is the Disabled Student Advisor.They may go by another name but you are sure to find them, or a Disabled Student Department, in the college directory.

The Disabled Student Advisor and their office will become a very important resource for you in your academic career. They will become your advocate in requesting accommodations from teachers and professors, they will seek out the best teachers for you to gain your degree and they will also update your requirements should your disability change while you are at school.

When you first arrive you will need to register with the Disabled Student Advisor. This is in addition to registering with the school itself. Generally you need to provide proof of a disability. Most often this will be comprised of a physicians letter with details of the disability, if the disability is permanent or temporary, and also noting what types of accommodations might be required.

For instance: Being blind I provided letters from my eye surgeon who provided notes on visual accuity at the time of entry. My vision allowed for some extra time on timed examinations, plus I was allowed to request extra time for written papers from my teachers. This provision was not guaranteed but allowed for rapid variations in vision which I suffered at the time. By the end of my academic career, and as a result of my decreased vision, supported by more documentation, I was allowed twice the normal time on timed examinations, the school also provided me with a reader who read my examination for me and also completed the answers to my dictation.


Other Resources

The Disabled Students Advisor might also be able to grant access to course materials such as recordings of textbooks for the blind or dyslexic student. Sometimes such materials can take a while to prepare so it is best to plan ahead. I often planned two sessions ahead to get hold or items such as text books in good time to either have friends record them for me or to have the school digitize them to a PDF file.

Sadly many textbook printing houses require you to buy the full priced text before they will provide a "free" copy to your school. It is a sad day when you hand over a $250 textbook when you know it is to be destroyed in the digitizing process.

One very good resource for the blind and dyslexic student is a non profit organization called Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D). RFB&D provide high quality readings of many widely used textbooks. These textbooks can be read using daisy readers or are available as sound file for Windows player 10 or later. The downloads are generally promised within 72 hours, but I always found them ready in much less time than that. You must register with RFB&D, again you must provide documentary evidence of a visual or reading disability, I was able to forward a letter signed by the librarian of my local recording for the blind library. Membership of RFB&D is yearly and when your membership expires all textbook files cease to function. While you are an active member you can download up to 35 textbooks per year.

A link to RFB&D is included in the links list below.


A Personal Book Reader.

It can be expensive to buy a text to speech reader, generally they can cost upwards of $1,000 for a basic model.

I found the Amazon Kindle DX to be an inexpensive alternative. At less than $400 the Kindle DX comes with variable font size and many books have a text to speech facility. It is a good idea though to check on the required books webpage to make sure the text to speech is enabled. Books for the Kindle are about the same price or sometimes less than the print version. With its built in internet connection, books take seconds to download and you can also request a sample of the book before purchasing the entire book, this is the equivalent of browsing through the bookstore.

Amazon do also provide a Kindle App for PC and Apple xomputers as well as iPhones. I did download the application to my PC computer but I then found there to be no text to speech facility and my screen reader was unable to read the textbook for me. Hopefully this may only be a slight hiccup and remedied with future software developments.

What You Can Do

The first thing is to believe that you can gain the prize. This is all about you. You set your goal. You will have hard days when it seems a long road to travel, but days rapidly turn to weeks; weeks turn to semesters; semesters to years. Before you know it you have petitioned to graduate and are wearing the cap and gown.

Don't Play for Sympathy: You are an ambassador for the disabled. If you play for sympathy and claim your work is late too often because of little problems, your teachers will become blase. They will not just see you as a problem student, they could brand all future disabled students with the same mark.

Do ALL the Work: Be disciplined for your own good. The most valuable discipline is just to do all the work, and do it to the best of your ability. Showing you know what the teacher has set in readings and study will take you a long way. The teacher wants you to succeed, they really do. The tests, exams and reading or writing assignments are not their obstacles to trick you, they are tools by which you prove you deserve your "A" grade.

Plan: Possibly the hardest thing I learned to do was plan. Much of my early undergraduate career was interrupted with medical emergencies. Eventually I learned to prepare what work I could when I had "free-time" So if I knew I was going to have a procedure done on my eyes in week six of a course I would let my teacher know, then I would sit down and write any essay or long piece of work due that week and either submit it early or if the teacher preferred, save it as a file on my computer for submission at the due daye. It actually improved my relationship with my teachers to do so. No longer were they waiting on old work from me and I also became more relaxed knowing that a lot of the hard work was done in advance with no last minute all nighters trying to write papers in a drowsy fog.

Again Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: It cannot be stressed too highly. This is your prize. You will earn it and you have a right to be proud of what you have done. Choose something you love to study, make it fun, don't listen to nay sayers; they will find you and demoralize you if you let them.

Take the step and find the support where you can. Four years will pass whatever you do. If you can use those four years to gain a degree then try it. You can only win if you try.


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    • Bretsuki profile imageAUTHOR

      William Elliott 

      10 years ago from California USA

      Thank you Simone. I appreciate yor comments. Thanks again.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      10 years ago from San Francisco

      A wonderfully inspiring Hub. Voted up!

    • Bretsuki profile imageAUTHOR

      William Elliott 

      10 years ago from California USA

      Thank you Sharyn. Thank you. That is a great compliment from such an accomplished hubber as you are.


    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 

      10 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Dear Bret,

      You certainly are an inspiration and have so much to offer with your written words. Thank you so much!


    • Bretsuki profile imageAUTHOR

      William Elliott 

      10 years ago from California USA

      Hello Invisiblestats, Thank you for you comments. It was something I had wanted to write for a while. Happy Hubbing

    • Invisiblestats profile image


      10 years ago from london

      Well written. Great hub.

    • Bretsuki profile imageAUTHOR

      William Elliott 

      10 years ago from California USA

      Hello Lindestar, thank you for taking time to comment. I do appreciate your views.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very encouraging. Well done.


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