Preparing for College
Many students with disabilities and their parents are unsure what to expect when they prepare for the college environment. Realistically, the transition from high school to college requires a period of adjustment for all students, since the academic demands placed on students are different in the two environments. However, the transition for students with disabilities requires special preparation in order to progress smoothly.
During the high school years, students with disabilities are often told "where to go, what to do, and when to do it." Their parents serve as their primary advocates and while students are required to participate in case conferences and the implementation of their Individual Education Plans (IEPs,) this participation often occurs from the "sidelines." When students transition to college, their parents cease to serve as their primary advocates and they are asked to take on this role, a role which is difficult for any student to assume! At the college level it is important for students with disabilities to understand they will be expected to seek out the services they need, provide adequate documentation of their disabilities, identify themselves as students with disabilities to their professors, request specific accommodations, and follow-through with their assigned responsibilities in the accommodation process. Students and their parents should begin preparing for this change in roles as soon as possible when the student has made the decision to attend college.
It is recommended that all University supports and academic resources be identified and arranged and/or in place well before students with disabilities begin their first semester of classes. The Counseling Center at the University of Southern Indiana offers assistance to students with disabilities in setting up accommodations with professors, and staff also offer recommendations for the type of documentation that is considered professionally appropriate to best establish qualification for accommodations at the college level.
It is important to note that qualification for accommodations is not automatic in college for students who may have qualified for accommodations in high school. It is necessary for students to provide very specific and detailed documentation and establishing qualification may take weeks to complete. The Counseling Center has an information cover sheet that is available to take to your professional to assist you in the qualification process; this sheet may be accessed using the following link:
Verification of Disability.
Some of the confusion surrounding the transition from high school to college can be traced to the fact that colleges and high schools are governed by different laws. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is no longer applicable to students with disabilities when they transition to college, and even Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504) has different provisions for postsecondary educational institutions than were in place for K-12 schools. The following link highlights some of the differences required of services provided to high school and college students:
Differences Between High School and College Services
In addition, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has some publications to help students and their parents "demystify" disability law and transition from high school to college, one of which can be accessed by following this link:
Preparing for Post-secondary Education
You may also find disability-related information pertinent to USI by visiting
USI's ADA Coordinator website at:
Finally, it is important for students with disabilities to remember that support is available to help them navigate this new and sometimes confusing process of self-advocacy and arranging for accommodations. Counseling Center staff are available to help if students are willing to ask!