How is college different from high school?

College life poses different challenges for students with disabilities. When students enroll in college, they are considered responsible adults by faculty and staff. The expectations are that they will assume responsibilities for meeting their class requirements.

This added responsibility is coupled with a change in environment. High school is a teaching environment in which students acquire knowledge and skills. College is a learning environment in which students take responsibility for thinking through and applying what they have learned.

Another student responsibility is that of self-advocacy. Students must become adept at realistically assessing and understanding their strengths, weaknesses, needs, and preferences. Also, they must become experts at communicating this information to other adults including instructors and service providers. Although services will be available to students through an office specializing in services to students with disabilities, students will be responsible for seeking these services and supports. Good communication skills and knowledge about oneself become crucial to success in college. Understanding some of these important differences allows parents to help their son or daughter achieve a smoother transition. How is a college or university different from high school?

High School College
School 6 hours per day, 5 days per week. Students are typically in class 12-18 hours per week, depending on course load.
The school year is about 9 months long. The academic year is two 16-week semesters.
Time is structured by others, and teachers closely monitor student’s attendance. Students arrange their own schedule with an advisor or counselor and manage their own time.
Students are not responsible for knowing what it takes to graduate. Students are expected to know the graduation requirements for their particular program.
Teachers check students completed homework. Instructors don’t always check student’s homework.
Teachers might remind students of missed work and often provide students with information they missed when they were absent. Instructors don’t remind students of missed work, and they expect students to get notes from classmates for any classes they’ve missed.
Case manager acts as advocate. Students must advocate for themselves.
Services result from Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). Services are based on a class by class and individual needs basis.
Regular parent contact. Parent contact limited by privacy laws.
High Schools are required to identify students with Disabilities and determine what is needed for the student to be successful. Colleges are restricted from seeking out students with disabilities due to privacy laws.
Educational and Psychological testing is provided. Students are responsible for providing documentation to the college.
Entitlement law (IDEA) Civil Rights - Anti-discrimination law (ADA, Rehabilitation Act, Section 504 and the MN Human Rights Act.

How can you help your son or daughter prepare for college?

Preparing for a successful college or university experience begins early in school. Statistically, students with disabilities are less likely to enter higher education, and those who do attend are less likely to graduate than their peers without disabilities. If your son or daughter is going to beat these odds, you have to plan and support the decision that can lead to college success. Use the following list to help your son or daughter plan for college:

How can you help your son or daughter have a successful college experience?

As first-year students arrive at a college or university and begin to venture forth they experience different reactions and thoughts. Some students will adjust to life with little difficulty, while others may find that the transition stretches beyond the first year. Parents can help by understanding the developmental process that their students will journey through as they enter a college or university and recognize that this process is part of the higher education learning environment.

As a parent what information is available to me from my son or daughter’s educational records?

In general, under federal and state privacy laws, students at colleges or universities have the legal right to control access to information about themselves. Some information called “directory data” is public and available to anyone, even parents. Almost all other information such as grades or class schedules is private and, in most cases, a student’s written authorization is required to release to a third party private information held by a college or university.

Parents are legally considered to be “third parties” and need their child’s written permission to access private data about them.

Contact the This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to obtain more information on the college’s data privacy policies.