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Students with Disabilities - How College Differs from High School

What’s Different

  • High schools may help identify students with disabilities; in the college setting, students with disabilities must identify themselves to the disability services or other designated office and actively request disability accommodations as needed.
  • High schools frequently provide educational or psychological testing for the diagnosis of disabilities; however, colleges/universities are not required to provide that same diagnostic testing.
  • In high school students with disabilities may be placed on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs); colleges do not use IEPs. Instead, colleges/universities typically prepare Disability Accommodation Letters for students with disabilities, and these Accommodation Letters communicate to the course instructor what disability accommodations should be provided for the student.
  • In college, students with disabilities will usually be asked to provide some type of documentation of their disability before receiving disability accommodations.
  • Colleges/universities must ensure that any disability accommodations provided do not interfere with essential learning requirements of a course or academic program, pose an undue financial or administrative burden, or jeopardize the health or safety of others.
  • Colleges/universities must hold students with disabilities to the same academic, technical, professional, and behavioral standards as their non-disabled peers.
  • In high school, parents may be more actively involved in making decisions for the student with the disability. Colleges must follow the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the student is responsible for making any decisions regarding their education. Parents may only make decisions for the student or get information on their class schedule and academic progress if a FERPA Release Form has been signed.
  • Colleges/universities are not required to provide personal care attendants for students with disabilities.

What’s the Same

  • Both high schools and colleges/universities have faculty and staff that want students with disabilities to succeed!
  • Determination and hard work are essential foundations for academic success!

What’s Awesome

  • Going to college can help individuals with disabilities gain confidence and facilitate personal growth.
  • Jobs can come and go, but a college degree is yours forever!