Guest Post: Prepare to Climb the College Mountain

By Kirsten Barraclough | September 15, 2022

When people go mountain climbing, they take appropriate gear with them. Standard items include mountaineering boots, crampons, a climbing helmet, and an ice axe. For glacier climbs, they take a rope, harness, and crevasse rescue equipment. It is unwise to simply wake up one day and decide to go climb a mountain. It takes preparation and training for someone to climb a mountain successfully.

Life can be likened to a series of mountains. One of these mountains is the transition from high school to college. It’s a stressful time for anyone, but especially when you have a disability or other health condition. Preparation is key, and it’s best to start preparing as early as you can. It would be wise to prepare academically, socially, and mentally.

High school is a great place to start developing skills to be successful in college. In college, it is the student’s responsibility to ask for the supports and accommodations they need in class, such as a note taker, extra time when taking tests, textbooks in accessible format, and assistive technologies like screen readers. In high school, you can start practicing how to clearly explain how your disability affects your learning and what your needs are. Also, work on time management and keeping track of assignments. It is very important to develop an organization system that works for you. Another important skill is to ask teachers for help when you are confused.

Another way to prepare for college is to practice social skills and social awareness. Some schools may require all first-year students to live on campus to help students feel part of campus life. So, join clubs or teams or participate in other extracurricular activities to make friends outside of the classroom. Treat others with kindness and respect. You could try to find someone at your high school that’s seemingly different than you and get to know them. Start learning how to interact with people from all walks of life. A balance between academics and social activities gives you a richer college experience.

Becoming mentally ready for college includes practicing independent living skills. Can you manage your money? Can you cook meals and do laundry? Can you get to class on time? Can you manage medications independently? Can you set goals and work toward them, making decisions for yourself? Are you willing to take responsibility for your actions and learn from your mistakes? Transitioning to college takes even more careful planning when you have a disability or health condition. Each college has a disability resource center to help you, and each state has an Office of Vocational Rehabilitation that helps those with disabilities succeed in post-secondary education and employment. A list of Vocational Rehabilitation programs by state can be found at

My biggest piece of advice for all high school students is to increase your self-confidence. The more confidence you have in yourself, the easier it will be to tackle the changes ahead. The way you present yourself to others can affect the way you feel about yourself. Focus on your strengths while not ignoring your weaknesses. College is meant to be a learning experience. Be open to new experiences. Be kind to yourself in the learning process because lasting self-worth comes from within. Celebrate your small successes along the way.

Preparing to attend college is like packing your climbing gear before you go mountain climbing. It takes time and effort to prepare for college, just like mountain climbing. Mountain climbing would not be safe or enjoyable without preparation, and the same applies to college. Be sure to prepare yourself academically, socially, and mentally. Above all, have confidence in yourself and develop resilience. College isn’t easy, but I think it’s a mountain worth climbing and exploring. The more skills you bring with you, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the view.

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