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Preparing for the college transition

Making the transition from high school to college requires careful planning. The following list of suggestions includes many of the necessary skills and steps that a student with a disability will want to consider during this important preparation period. Students need to be prepared for the independence and challenges of college life. 

Big changes, big opportunities

Our professional staff have compiled a set of tips/topics/questions for students with disabilities who are preparing for the transition from high school to college. In addition, an excellent handbook, Opening Doors to Postsecondary Education and Training, from the WI Dept of Education serves as a valuable resource for students, families and educators.

Find details on each of the categories below by clicking on the plus sign.

Develop an understanding of the disability

  • Consult with the high school to get a good understanding of what support services or special help the student is receiving.
  • Make sure students have a good understanding of their disability. They should know and be able to articulate their strengths and what accommodations work best for them.
  • Make sure it is the student's choice to attend college. The most successful college students are those who have high motivation and a good understanding of their particular strengths and weaknesses. They understand that it may be harder and take more time to manage college-level work. They are committed to spend that extra time studying and to request and use appropriate accommodations when needed.

Update evaluation and assessment information 

  • Make sure all testing is up-to-date. Testing may be done periodically during high school to update students' service needs. Although formal re-assessment processes are not required as part of a special education re-evaluation, we recommend that you request a complete re-assessment during your junior or senior year of high school. At the postsecondary level, it is the student's responsibility to provide documentation of their disability and a need for accommodations at the college level. Most colleges do not have the facilities or the personnel to conduct such testing. If testing information is current, the college may be able to use test results obtained while the student was in high school for decisions regarding programming and accommodations, thus saving the cost of a private evaluation. Current documentation of the student's disability, resulting functional limitations, and appropriate accommodations will be needed by the college before accommodations can be provided.
  • Obtain all special education evaluation reports and copies of your most recent IEP before high school graduation. Colleges, as well as vocational rehabilitation offices, request these records to assist in providing special services to students.
  • Make contact with the appropriate Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Office before graduation. DVR offers a variety of services to eligible students who have a disability. These services may include vocational assessment, job placement, etc. (Note: This office operates on a state-by-state basis and may be known by a different name in your state.)
  • Get information on special exam arrangements for SAT and/or ACT.

Become involved on campus 

  • Contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities at colleges when applying. Gather information on what kinds of services and support are available and the number of students with disabilities attending the college. Inquire as to what documentation is required before services can be provided. Make sure you ask your questions of the direct service provider at the college; do not make decisions based on what someone has told you someone else will or will not do for you!
  • Visit colleges before making a definite choice. Consider the communities in which they are located.

This information was developed from a listing originally compiled and published by the HEATH Resource Center, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20036.


SSD resources

More information about preparing students with disabilities for postsecondary education is provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights at the following link:

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