» Differences Between High School & College for Students with Disabilities

Receiving accommodations in high school could be different experience in higher education. Below are some common differences in experience you may encounter between high school and college.

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Comparison of Applicable Laws



  • I.D.E.A. (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
  • A.D.A. (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title III - for private institutions)
  • Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • I.D.E.A. is designed to promote student success
  • A.D.A. is designed for equal access to the campus and degree programs

Comparison of Required Documentation


  • I.E.P. (Individual Education Plan) and/or 504 Plan
  • High school I.E.P. and 504 alone, are usually not sufficient. 
  • School provides evaluation at no cost to student
  • Student must get evaluation at own expense
  • Documentation focuses on determining whether student is eligible for services based on specific disability categories in I.D.E.A.
  • Documentation must provide information on specific functional limitations and demonstrate the need for accommodations

Comparison of Self-Advocacy

K-12 College
  • Student is identified by the school and is supported by parents and teachers
  • Student must self-identify to the Office of Disability Services
  • Primary responsibility for arranging accommodations belongs to the school
  • Primary responsibility for self-advocacy and arranging accommodations belongs to the student
  • Teachers approach you if they believe you need assistance
  • Professors are usually open and helpful, but most expect you to initiate contact if you need assistance

Comparison of Parental Role

K-12 College
  • Parent has access to student records and can participate in the accommodation process
  • Parent does not have access to student records without student's written permission
  • Parent often advocates for student
  • Student advocates for self

Comparison of Instruction

K-12 College
  • Teachers may modify curriculum and/alter curriculum pace of assignments
  • Professors are not required to redesign or alter assignments and/or deadlines
  • You are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed and often re-taught in class
  • Substantial amounts of reading and writing (which may not be directly addressed in class) is usually necessary
  • You seldom need to read anything more than once, sometimes listening in class is enough
  • You need to review class notes, text, and material regularly

Comparison of Grades & Tests

K-12 College
  • IEP or 504 plan may include modifications to test format and/or grading
  • Grading and test format changes (i.e. multiple choice vs. essay) are generally not available. Accommodations as to HOW tests are given (extended time, test proctors) are available when supported by disability documentation
  • Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material
  • Testing is usually infrequent and may be cumulative, covering large amounts of material
  • Makeup tests are often available
  • Makeup tests are seldom an option; if they are, you need to request them
  • Teachers often take time to remind you of assignments and due dates
  • Professors expect you to read, save, and consult the course syllabus (outline); the syllabus spells out exactly what is expected of you, when it is due, and how you will be graded

Comparison of Study Responsibilities

K-12 College
  • Your time and assignments are structured by others
  • You manage your own time and complete assignments independently
  • You may study outside class as little as 0 to 2 hours a week and this may be mostly last minute test preparation
  • You need to study at least 2 to 3 hours outside of class for each hour in class