Transition to College

The differences between the accommodation process in high school and the university can pose an initial challenge for students who are use to the secondary school environment. These differences can largely be attributed to the laws that govern the provision of accommodations in the post-secondary and secondary settings. Colleges and universities are governed by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These laws ensure equal access to individuals with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to meet the essential demands of a university program. High schools, in addition to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, are primarily governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA is an entitlement law that requires that children with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education. Incoming students will find that at UNM, there is a much greater emphasis on personal responsibility and self-advocacy as compared to a secondary setting. Accessibility Resource Center is here to facilitate a smooth transition between these two educational environments.

Comparison Table: Disability Accommodations in High School Versus College

ItemHigh SchoolCollege
Academic Standards and ExpectationsThe curriculum is changed to meet the student’s needsStudent must meet the same academic standards as all other students; the curriculum will not be changed

The school is required to identify every student with a disability and set up an IEP or 504 plan if needed

Student must self-identify as a person with a disability and request accommodations from the college’s office for students with disabilities

Responsibility for AccommodationsStudent has virtually no responsibility for accommodationsStudent has primary responsibility for their accommodations
Provision Of AccommodationsStudent does not have to request their accommodations, because they are automatically provided by the schoolStudent must setup their accommodations whenever they want to use them; the college only provides accommodations if the student asks for them
ConfidentialityStudent’s disability is listed in the IEP/504 plan and can be seen by their teachers and other relevant school staffStudent’s disability is known only to the office for students with disabilities and is not disclosed to professors or other staff
AdvocacyParents and school staff are responsible for advocating for the studentStudent is responsible for advocating for themselves

For additional information about the substantive differences between the K-12 and higher education settings, the OCR brochure Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities contains particularly useful information.