Making the Move from High School to College

Students may experience significant differences from high school in a college's handling of disabilities. These differences are attributable to governance by different law (colleges are governed by ADA and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, but not IDEA) as well as expectations that students will assume greater responsibility for their behavior and for asserting their needs. Here are some important points to keep in mind as you make the transition.
As students are now legally adults, college personnel will expect to work directly with students rather than with parents. Indeed, laws are such that staff may be precluded from talking with parents unless the student gives written consent for staff to do so.

Colleges do not bear the responsibility for identifying disabled students. Instead, students must identify themselves to the Dean of Students Office. (Telling a professor, the Admissions Office, or another campus staff member is not adequate, insofar as these persons do not bear the responsibility to notify the dean’s office about disabled students.)
Students bear the responsibility for apprising the college of any difficulties they are experiencing securing accommodations.

College personnel are available to consult with and guide students but do not generally provide the level of oversight and monitoring students may have experienced in high school. There are no "progress" or "team meetings,"  nor are there any "case management" services: no one pushes students to attend classes or to submit homework. In keeping with the educational mission of the College, Trinity believes that students should develop skills of self-advocacy, be aware of their disabilities, and assist in the process of finding strategies to be successful. 

Students may not qualify for the same accommodations in college that they had in high school, even if the student’s situation is otherwise unchanged.

College professors are not obligated to alter their instructional practices. For example, they need not add visual aids to accommodate the needs of a learning disabled student.

Colleges are not required to make program or curricular modifications, nor are they required to offer alternate assessments or modifications to exams.

Colleges are not required to offer services of a personal nature - including study-skills training and academic tutoring.
Colleges may and often do require different documentation from what was acceptable in high school, as discussed below in "Documenting Your Disability." Documentation that was acceptable in high school may not be adequate in college.

Trinity provides assistance and accommodations for qualified students with documented disabilities as long as they are necessary to provide equal access to College programs and services and the accommodation is reasonable.

In order to be reasonable, the accommodation must be based on appropriately documented needs; not compromise the essential requirements of a course or program; not create a nuisance or threat to the safety of others; not impose an undue administrative or financial burden; and be directly related to the pursuit of educational objectives.  Normally, accommodations consist of extra time for examinations, preferred seating arrangements, note-taking assistance, or devices to assist those with visual or hearing impairments.


For additional information on preparing for college, please refer to the U.S. Department of Education's website at