Incoming Students Disability Resources Guide

Differences Between High School and College Accommodations

In high school, services were implemented by a team of educators and parents with an aim toward promoting your success. When you enter college the responsibility shifts. You must seek out assistance by contacting disability service offices, such as CETL Disability Resources, to arrange access.

This is a fundamental change in the way that you relate to instructors and advisers; as a college student, you will now initiate all services and accommodations.

Differences Between High School and College Accommodation

High School


Focus is to promote SUCCESS

Focus is to provide ACCESS

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is implemented at the secondary school level with an aim toward success for all students entitled to a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) at their Local Education Agency (LEA).

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act guides college-level accommodation policy with an aim toward access for “otherwise qualified” students based on the colleges’ admission criteria.

Modification of instruction and curriculum are commonly provided in response to student learning needs.

Through an interactive interview process, reasonable accommodations are identified to ensure equal access and participation. Students are responsible for meeting the standards of the course, and essential elements of the course objectives are not modified.

The LEA is responsible for identifying a student’s disability, determining eligibility for services and implementing appropriate accommodations.

Students identify their request for services to the disability office, and provide documentation that verifies eligibility for accommodations specific to a functional limitation.

Cost of evaluations are borne by the LEA

Cost of evaluations are borne by the student

Individual Education Plans or 504 Plans are created to guide the student’s instruction and mandate services

Higher education institutions do not develop comparable individual education plans

Teachers and parents arrange services and assistance for the student

Students must initiate request for services and arrange required accommodations

School-based services based on demonstrated need are put in place to promote success, such as:

  • Special education classes
  • Co-teaching and resource room
  • Teaching assistants or personal aides
  • Speech therapy/OT/PT providers
  • Extended time exams

College accommodations are intended to mitigate the impact of disability based on eligibility to ensure access, such as:

  • Note taker
  • Extended time exams
  • Separate exam location
  • Assistive technology
  • Alternate textbook formats

Personal aide services are arranged and provided by school district

College is not responsible for personal aide services

Teachers and parents remind students to complete homework, help in exam preparation, and aid with time management

Students independently plan homework and create reading and study schedules

High school provides a highly regimented, closely monitored schedule with homework assigned at regular intervals

College schedule has more free, unstructured time; classes meet less frequently, more difficult homework, and heavy reading load

Parents communicate routinely with teachers, and can easily monitor student academic progress

Parents have no contact with instructors, and written consent is required to access student progress

Parents and teachers guide and intervene on the student’s behalf, recommending strategies and supports

Students need to self-advocate, articulate their needs for services and accommodations proactively, and pursue resources on campus for assistance

Attribution: The Advocacy Consortium and Learning Disabilities Association of America