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Making the Transition From High School to College for Students With Disabilities

Making the Transition From High School to College for Students With Disabilities

How high school and college are different for students with disabilities

High School College

Special Ed Model

  • School personnel “find you” and decide what eligibility for services and support

Accommodations Model

  • You must request help, no one will come find you

Where you receive services

  • Special education classroom, resource room, related service provider

Where you receive services

  • Differs from one school to another (Office of Disability, Disabled Student Services, etc.)


  • Coordinated by School psychologist or CSE appointed staff person
  • School Develops IEP from Documentation and test results
  • Paid for by school


  • You must provide Proof of your disability (School records, clinical reports, health records)
  • Colleges can set their own guidelines for documentation (documentation no more than 5 years old)
  • After High School, you are responsible for paying for any new or updated evaluations
  • Colleges requests documentation that provides current functioning and diganosis information

Special Education Law

  • The individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides the mandate and funding to schools for in school special education services as well as transportation/ buses to school, physical, occupational, speech therapy, and tutoring.

Civil Rights Law

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Colleges are required only to offer accommodations and support services, not services of a personal nature.
  • Tutoring is not required under ADA, Blinn offers tutoring to all students.
  • Foreign Language waivers and other course substitutions are not automatic.

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Knowing your options

All colleges are required by law to provide accommodations to students with documented disabilities. Some colleges offer specialized programs that are highly structured and include a wide range of academic and behavioral supports. Other colleges offer support services that are less intensive and that require students to “take the lead” in monitoring their progress and managing their special needs on campus.

Programs vs. Support Services

  • Programs: Programs are specifically designed for students with disabilities and provide more in-depth services and accommodations. Not all colleges have these types of programs. When offered, the most common types are designed for students with learning disabilities and/or ADHD. These programs usually have costs in addition to tuition. These programs often provide one-on-one tutoring and sessions with a learning disability specialist. (Blinn College provides tutoring to all students through the Learning Center and Writing Center, you do not need to be registered with Disability Services.)
  • Support Services: Support Services are the resources available at no cost for students with disabilities. Support Services include reasonable accommodations such as extended time writing assignments and testing, note taking assistance, use of a calculator, and preferential seating in classrooms.

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What you should do while you are still in high school

  1. Find out about your disability: Talk to your parents, high school special education teacher, or guidance counselor to learn about your specific disabilities Understand the academic impact of your disability. Understand your area of strength and weakness
    • Understand how your disability might affect future employment and/or career choices
    • Make sure that you have current documentation (request updated testing or a re-evaluation before you leave high school)
    • Read your disability documentation and understand what it says
  2. Actively participate in all transition-related meetings (i.e., IEP, 504, IPE)
    • Participate in self-advocacy training
    • Learn to express your current and future needs, concerns, interests, and preferences
    • Know what your rights & responsibilities are and what the grievance procedures are at your selected colleges
  3. Develop a personal information file with disability-related information:
    • Disability documentation
      • Current high school records (e.g., grade transcript, standardize achievement testing scores)
      • Medical records (if relevant to educational progress)
      • Copy of current IEP or 504 plans
      • College Entrance Exam results/ info (SAT, ACT)
      • Psychological and educational evaluation records
      • Make sure that you have documentation with your diagnosis information
  4. Select and plan college choices
    • Select the college you’d consider attending (important tip: do not choose schools by the number of services offered; make your initial selections based on whether the school offers the programs of study that most interest you)
    • Visit each campus (make sure to meet the person(s) in charge of the Office of Disability Services
    • Do your homework! Consider:
      • What services/programs each prospective college provides through their disability support office
      • How often are services available? Are the service providers on campus and available on an as-needed basis?
      • Are there restrictions (e.g., times per week) or additional costs for using these services?
  5. Apply - Good luck!

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After you have been accepted

Congratulations! You have been accepted to a college! Now what?

  1. Register with the college’s disability services office or program. Remember you need to:
    • Contact the campus office- they will not find you or contact you.
    • Disability documentation (recommended within five years) that states the diagnosis information. This can be emailed, faxed, or brought by in person.
    • Request the accommodations that you will need when you complete your intake packet (note-takers, assistive technology, extended time for testing, audiobook, etc.)
    • Request those accommodations before scheduling placement tests such as TSIA or you will not receive accommodations for those tests.
  2. Arrange other supports not provided by the school.
    • Do you need counseling, medication management, or other support?
    • Develop backup plans for these supports.

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