Transitioning to College

Transition to college can be challenging for students with disabilities. The laws governing disability services for individuals with disabilities in post-secondary institutions are significantly different than those mandated for K-12 education. It is important for students and families to understand the major differences between these two learning environments. 

Differences Between High School and College Disability Services

At the elementary and secondary levels, the IDEA - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - mandates the school districts  to provide support services including: identifying students with special needs, evaluating them, and providing accommodations. It is the special educator's responsibility to meet with the parents and faculty, draw up an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each student, and attempt to help students meet their goals. Classroom teachers work closely with the special educator to implement IEP goals and objectives.  The overall objective of K-12 education is academic success. 

At the college level, however, procedures change dramatically. The responsibility shifts to the student and the student becomes responsible for self-identification. While Lynchburg College is responsible for providing students with reasonable accommodations, students must demonstrate eligibility by providing appropriate documentation, ask for services, and fully participate in the process.

High School College

Services provided under IDEA or Section 504.

Services provided under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

School district identifies and evaluates disability at no cost to the student or family.

You must self-identify and provide documentation of disability.
You must pay the cost of evaluation.
The college is responsible for most, but not all costs involved in  providing accommodations and/or essential auxiliary aids.
The college is not legally required to provide special programs with comprehensive support services.

You have fewer responsibilities.

You are expected to live more independently.

You are assisted with decisions.

You become responsible for an increasing number of decisions.

Limits and goals are set for you by parents and teachers.

You are expected to make independent decisions.
More self-evaluation and monitoring required.
More independent reading and studying is required.
You are more responsible for managing time commitments.
You establish and attain your own goals.
You determine when you need help.
Interest in learning must be generated by you, the student.
You must motivate to yourself to succeed.

Attendance and progress is well monitored.

You are responsible for attendance and awareness of your progress or lack thereof.

Your time is structured by home and school.

You manage your own time.

Special education teacher is the liaison between students, parents, teachers.

You are responsible for self-advocacy.

Summary for High School

Summary for College

Students with disabilities are placed in "special education" and possibly served separately from other students.

You must self-identify disability and request services from postsecondary institution.
You are required to provide recent documentation of disability and
documentation must clearly support desired accommodations.
You are not labeled or served separately from others.
Other students and faculty will not know about your disability unless you choose to reveal such information. Faculty is only notified about required accommodations.

Adapted from St. Louis Community College. Compiled from: Claire E. Weinstein, Karalee Johnson, Robert Malloch, Scott Ridley and Paul Schuls, Innovation Abstracts (vol. X No. 21; Sept. 30, 1988); National Institute for Staff & Organizational Development; the University of Texas, Austin, Texas, 78712 F. Shaw, L.C. Brinckerhoff, J. Kistler and J. M. McGuire, 1991, Learning Disabilities A Multidisciplinary Journal 2, 21-26;The Postsecondary Learning Disabilities Primer, Learning Disabilities Training Project, Western Colina University, 1989; Vogel, S. A. Alderman, P.B. 1993, Success for College Students with Learning Disabilitie; Brinckerhoff, L.C., S.F. Shaw and J. M. McGuire, 1993, Promoting Postsecondary Education for Students with Learning Disabilities.

New Student Responsibilities

Self-advocacy is a skill students must learn and practice inside and outside of the classroom. It is our belief that students benefit when they understand the limitations imposed by their disabilities and can effectively communicate these to their instructors. Self-advocacy in college helps to prepare for careers, internships and life in general after college. 

Students must also know what kind of classroom assistance will help them maximize their academic abilities. Students are encouraged to work with the Disability Services Coordinator (DSC) and their instructors early in the semester to explain their disabilities and provide notification of their accommodations. The DSC provides individualized accommodation letters for students each semester they attend Lynchburg College.

Changes for Families

Parents or guardians may have difficulty with the transition to college as well. Their past experience of taking an active part in the Individualized Educational Planning process changes at the postsecondary level. Because of the differences in the law, once students enroll and attend a post-secondary institution, they are considered adults and parents must take a secondary role. Sometimes parents are not aware of the changes at the postsecondary level and need to become familiar with legal limitations.

We encourage students and their families to attend the support services session offered during SOAR - Summer Orientation and Registration (SOAR).