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Getting Ready for College

High schools and colleges have different ways of supporting students with disabilities. This document is meant to help you understand these differences, so you know what to expect. This is not legal advice. If you want information about a specific college’s policies, contact their disability services office.

Accommodations from a high school 504/IEP plan do not transfer to college. Students must work with the college disability office to create a new plan.

Skills for College Success

  • Being able to name your disability and talk about how it impacts you
  • Checking your personal and student email every day
  • Getting to class on time, doing homework, and studying without being reminded
  • Finding ways to deal with stress and anxiety
  • Improving your notetaking skills (or learning to use technology to take notes)
  • Using an app or paper planner to track assignments, appointments, and deadlines
  • Turning assignments in on time
  • Learning where to go for different kinds of help
  • Being willing to ask for support when you need it

What is an accommodation?

An accommodation is a change to the way things are typically done. Accommodations help make sure that students with disabilities have the same chance to participate as any other student.


Accommodations in higher education do not guarantee success.

The Process

Colleges must have a person or a department that works with students with disabilities. They might be called Disability Services, Access Resources, or something similar. Each school is a little different but you will typically follow the same steps to get support.

  1. Fill out an application with the disability department.
  2. Schools may ask for a note from a doctor or therapist. This information is often called documentation. A copy of your IEP or 504 plan may also provide helpful information.
  3. Meet with disability services to talk about how your disability impacts you. You will be asked questions to help figure this out.
  4. Each term, you will work with disability services to notify your instructors of your approved accommodations.
  5. If you have a problem with your accommodations, let disability services know right away.

Accommodation Limits

  • College accommodations are not special education.
  • Accommodations cannot change assignments or tests, or let you redo tests.
  • All students have to complete the same work.
  • In college, there is not special teaching or extra help in the classroom for students with disabilities.
  • Assignment extensions are not common in college.

You Are In Charge

  • In college, students are adult learners, so colleges will work directly with you, not your parents.
  • Students who want accommodations must contact the disability office. The school will not contact you first.
  • You can give the school permission to share information with your parent by signing a form called a release of information, but the school will still work directly with you.

Help Is Available

Tutoring, academic mentoring, and talking to teachers during their office hours are ways that all students can get extra support at college.