• Elizabeth Hamblet

How Professionals Can Help Students with Disabilities Prepare for Successful College Transition


College transition can be a challenge for all students - the environment is largely unstructured and the academic demands are increased. Since college is an academic environment, the shift there may be even more challenging for students with learning disabilities and/or ADHD than for some of their peers. But they can be successful there, and the proper preparation can help make for a smooth transition.

When I was developing my book, I asked disability services directors at a variety of kinds of institutions what high school teachers, case managers, administrators, psychologists, and other professionals can do to help students get ready for college.

Q. What are your top pieces of advice for high school teachers, administrators, child study team members, and other related professionals for how they can help students to prepare for successful transition to college?

Ward Newmeyer is Director of Student Disability Services at Dartmouth College

A. Help students understand how things will be different when they get to college and suggest ways that students can adapt. Help students develop the skills tied with success, such as executive functioning, critical thinking, study skills, time management, and persistence. And teach them the importance of personal and academic integrity.

Stacey Reycraft is Director of Student Disability Services at the University of Mississippi

A. Parents and special education staff should start early with transition. Student should know before college their diagnoses, how they are impacted by them, and what strategies and accommodations work best for them. If students have a number of accommodations in high school that are unlikely to be available at college, case managers and/or special education teachers should work with students on developing strategies they can use in college when they won’t have access to these accommodations. Coming in to college with expectations about accommodations that may not be available may make the transition to college more difficult for students.

Bonni Alpert is Assistant Dean at Western New England University

A. Professionals should help students learn about the differences between high school and college with regard to academic expectations, courseload, everyday responsibilities, what will and will not be allowed accommodations-wise, the need to manage their time, get work done, and be responsible for preparing for exams on their own.

Jamie Axelrod is the Director of Disability Resources at Northern Arizona University

A. Learn the law and learn the differences in the systems between high school and college and why they are different. We have different mandates – high schools have to provide FAPE, we have to provide “opportunity.” This is a big difference in requirements between the two systems. One of the biggest issues we deal with at the college level is that students are being told that their IEPs or 504 plans transfer to college, but they don’t. Professionals need to give students the right information so that they know what to expect.

Cindy Poore-Pariseau is Coordinator of Disability Services at Bristol Community College

A. Students should be encouraged to be more involved more in their IEP meeting. The case manager really should go through the IEP and psychoeducational testing with students so that they can get familiar with the language.They need some verbiage to be able to communicate their needs when they get to college and register with DS.

Case managers should be conversant in the differences in disability laws and how these affect services and accommodations at the college level. They should also teach parents and students about these differences so that families know what students can expect at college and what the expectations for students’ level of independence will be there.

Special education teachers and case managers should get to know the DS staff and other personnel at their local colleges so that they know what services and supports are available and can refer their students who move on to these schools to helpful resources. They should take their students for tours, too, so that they can meet some of these staff members and learn about other available resources there.

L. Scott Lissner is the ADA Coordinator at Ohio State University

A. Each year, high school professionals should review with students the accommodations that were written into their plans.They should draw students’ opinions out regarding their accommodations- did they work, are there adjustments they didn’t need, or anything they need that they’re not getting?

Mai Graves is Director of the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at Pratt Institute

A. They can help students to develop the skills they will need to function independently. Professionals should make sure that students’ IEPs include goals and objectives include the development of self-advocacy and executive skills.They should also help students to gain self-knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses.

To see more posts on these topics, click here:

College disability services directors' advice & information

College preparation and readiness


To see other topics I've covered in the blog, browse the categories at the right of the page or click on the magnifying glass at the top of the page to use the search feature.


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Hear more from these directors, and learn what the research says helps make students with disabilities successful at college, and more. Read my book, From High School to College: Steps to Success for Students with Disabilities.


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