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How College Benefits Us: Students with Intellectual Disabilities Speak Out

compiled by Maria Paiewonsky

Staff from the Institute for Community Inclusion, at the University of Massachusetts Boston, asked 50 students with intellectual disabilities who have participated in inclusive college experiences to share how they perceive they have benefited from attending college. Below are some of their comments on six different aspects of college life.


Overcoming the First Day Jitters

Several students admitted that even though they were excited about going to college, the first few days were a little nerve-wracking. In addition to talking about how they felt at the time, three students talked about how they overcame their fears:


Realizing the Differences Between High School and College Courses

A strong theme in the students' responses was the realization they came to that the college courses they take are much more rigorous than classes they took in high school, and that they are meeting higher academic expectations:


Learning New Things

Many students talked about what they are learning in their courses, and were especially eager to talk about courses that are related to their interests:


Appreciating More Freedom and Independence

Nearly all the students commented on how much they appreciated the freedom and independence they felt at college:


Becoming a Changed Person

Several students described how they have changed as a result of going to college:


Some Advice About College

When asked what advice they have for younger students who have not thought about college or are anxious about trying college, the students had a number of encouraging responses:

Maria Paiewonsky is the Participatory Action Research Coordinator for Think College, Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts, Boston. She may be reached at or 617/287-7697.



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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota ( Citation: Weir, C., Fialka, J., Timmons, J., Nord, D., & Gaylord, V. (Eds.). (Autumn/Winter 2010/2011). Impact: Feature Issue on Postsecondary Education and Students with Intellectual, Developmental and Other Disabilities, 23(3). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration].

The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at

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