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Transitioning from High School to College

The transition from high school to college presents exciting changes and new challenges for all students. For many students this transition includes moving away from home for the first time. Changes from the structure of living at home to the independence of living away from home, and from the support provided in high school to the expectations and responsibilities in college can be overwhelming for all new students. For students who have a disability, there are several additional factors to consider. At USI students work with the Disability Resources office to get the appropriate accommodations and services in place to ensure access.

At the college level, students are responsible for submitting appropriate documentation of their disability. After documentation is submitted, students can set up an appointment to meet with a disability resources coordinator to discuss accommodations. Students can also find a wealth of support at Academic Skills such as tutoringsupplemental instruction, and help with study skills and organization.

Unlike high school, getting accommodations and services at the post-secondary level is at the initiation of the student. The responsibility for students to become advocates for themselves increases more than ever at the post-secondary level. Students need to be able to communicate their disability and how it impacts and limits major life activities. It is a good idea to get familiar with some of the differences between high school and college for students who have a disability. High school services are geared toward guaranteeing success for students whereas the goal of college services is to provide access.

Tips for Incoming Freshmen

Before Classes Start

  • Before you move into campus housing, be sure that you have thought through daily responsibilities such as doing your own laundry, managing a bank account, and handling your own medicine. Several structured supports that were in place during high school will not transition with you to the college setting.

  • Discuss your family health care plan and how you might access confidential health care services if necessary. 

  • In order to have your accommodations in place early in the semester make sure you have submitted appropriate documentation before the beginning of the school year. You will receive a follow-up email or phone call to set up an appointment once your documentation has been reviewed.

  • Understand your disability. Be able to discuss your strengths, weaknesses, and functional limitations with the Disability Resources Coordinator. This conversation will assist with developing appropriate accommodations.  

  • When scheduling classes, don’t schedule classes back to back. Leave some extra time in between classes if you plan to utilize extended time on exams.

  • Learn study skills by setting up an appointment with an academic coach in Academic Skills.

After Classes Start

  • Meet with your instructors during office hours to provide them with your letters that list your accommodations. Try to have a conversation with your professors and develop a good relationship with them.

  • Manage time wisely. Look at the syllabi from all of your classes. Fill out a calendar to include due dates for all assignments and for all exams. This will help you to be proactive and to pace yourself so that you can spread out the workload especially when you have multiple assignments due and exams around the same time.

  • Attend tutoring and supplemental instruction. These free services will provide you with extra support and will help you study for your classes.

  • Review this list of more student support and resources

Checklist For College

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 areas of strength and weakness. 
  • Make sure 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. 
  • Understand how your disability might affect future employment and/or career choices. 

2. Actively participate in all transition-related activities. 

  • Participate in IEP/504 meetings. 
  • Understand how the accommodations you receive are related to your disability. Learn to express your current and future needs, concerns, interests, and preferences. 
  • Research how high school and higher education differ from one another, especially for individuals with disabilities. 
  • Know your rights and responsibilities as an individual with a disability. 

3. Create a personal information file with disability-related information which includes: 

  • psychoeducational and educational evaluation records
  • current IEP/504 plan (if you have one)
  • current high school records (e.g. grade transcript)
  • college entrance exam results/information (SAT, ACT) and the accommodations used for them, if applicable

4. Contact the USI Disability Resources Office. 

  • Call or email the USI Disability Resources Office with any questions. 
  • Submit your documentation by faxing or mailing it to the Disability Resources office. 
  • Set up an appointment with a Disability Resources coordinator. 
  • Check your USI email account on a regular basis. 
  • Prepare for placement testing. Review your algebra skills (if taking the math placement exam). Call Disability Resources if you need accommodations. 
  • Prepare for orientation. Call Disability Resources if you need accommodations for orientation. 

5. Learn about and practice self-advocacy. 

What is self-advocacy? 

  • Self-advocacy means speaking or acting for yourself. 
  • It means deciding what is best for you and taking charge of getting it. 
  • It means standing up for your rights as a person. 
  • It teaches others about our rights and responsibilities. 

Why is self-advocacy important? 

  • It helps us to develop assertiveness skills and good communication skills. 
  • It teaches us to make decisions and choices that affect our lives so that we can be more independent. 
  • It helps us to develop confidence about our abilities. 

When will I use self-advocacy at college? 

  • When you need additional accommodations
  • When you don't have access to some activity on campus and you need to have that barrier removed
  • When you are having disability-related difficulty in a class and need some extra assistance

How can I practice being a self-advocate?

  • Understand what your disability is and how it affects you.
  • Understand your rights and responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA.
  • Use this information to achieve your goals and advocate for yourself.