High School to College Transition

If you are a student who has a disability, you face major changes when graduating from high school and entering a college or university. Some of the accommodations you received in high school might not be available and appropriate in higher education. Individual education plans (IEPs) and 504 plans are no longer valid when you graduate from high school. Whereas your parents might have played a major role in your day-to-day education when you were younger, at a university you’ll be treated as an adult and expected to take responsibility for ensuring that your own educational needs are met.

Differences between high school and college

As you enter a higher-education program, it’s important to keep in mind that your education and the accommodations you receive will be affected by a different set of laws, policies and procedures.

High school

  • Services are delivered to the student.
  • Teachers identify students who need accommodations.
  • IEPs, 504 plans and annual reviews are used.
  • Schools provide evaluations for disabilities.
  • Educational and psychological tests are provided.
  • Information is shared with parents.
  • Accommodations are provided with an emphasis on student success.
  • Services are based on an agreed-upon time allotment and menu of choices.
  • A case manager acts as an advocate.
  • Applicable laws include entitlement law (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


  • Students must seek out services.
  • Students self-identify as having a disability and needing accommodations.
  • IEPs, 504 plans and annual reviews are not used.
  • Students provide documentation of disabilities and take responsibility for getting updated evaluations.
  • Students cover the costs of testing and treatment.
  • Students are responsible for their own educational choices and sign their own paperwork. Parents are not involved without the students’ permission.
  • Accommodations are provided to ensure access to education.
  • Students act as their own advocates.
  • Applicable laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


Get tips on making the transition, navigating legal issues, preparing for college and procuring documentation.