Transitioning To College

The transition from high school to college is an exciting and sometimes anxious time, especially for students with learning disabilities.

Recognizing and reviewing the differences between high school and college environments can make the process easier to navigate. Overall, college students are expected to rely on their own self-advocacy skills to obtain and utilize accommodations. We thought it helpful to outline some of the other differences between high school and college to prepare students for a smooth transition.


In High School:In College:
Legal guidance is provided by Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).Legal guidance is provided by the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act (for housing accommodation requests).
The school is responsible for identifying students with disabilities.The student must self-identify or disclose their disability.
The school must provide the assessment of disability, classify disability, and involve parents.The student must provide documentation of their disability to the Office of Accessibility Services.
Teachers will remind students of assignment due dates and provide missed information when the student is absent.Students are responsible for asking professors for help and for keeping track of their projects, assignments, and test dates.
Services include individually designed instruction, modifications, and accommodations based on the IEP.Reasonable accommodations may be made to provide equal access and participation.
The parent is expected to advocate for the student.The student is expected to advocate on their own behalf.


Transition Strategies

We recommend that students and parents take some time to reflect on strategies that will maximize academic success during the first year on campus. The resources linked below will help you reflect and discuss.

How College is Different From High School (PDF)
Get Ready for College Calendar (PDF)

Transition Strategies for Parents

The parents of students with learning differences play an important role as they support their student through the high-school-to-college transition. Here is a list of specific things parents can do to help students prepare for college-level academic expectations.

How did the learning difference affect their academic performance in high school, and how will it likely affect them in college? 

A useful book on this topic is Jennifer Sullivan’s “Sharing the Transition to College: Words of Advice for Diverse Learners and their Families.” Tide Pool Books (2020). Reading this book together with your Centre-bound student can help you initiate these important conversations.

If so, encourage them to register their learning difference with Centre’s Office of Accessibility Services, located in the Centre Learning Commons.

Information about arranging accommodations may be found online via Centre’s webpage for Accessibility Services 

Review with your student the helpful resources and help your student gather and submit their supporting documentation here.

Help your student find effective words and phrases to describe how their learning differences affect them when they are doing homework, when they are in class, and when they are taking a test.

Role play conversations with a professor when your student describes their learning differences, speaks about their difficulties, or asks for help in office hours.

Ask your student to describe the strategies they used in high school to manage time and stay organized? Will these strategies be effective in college?  This summer, help your student practice using a weekly planner or calendar (digital or paper) and organizing important papers.

Help your student identify three distractions that might keep them from completing their Centre schoolwork, then make a plan to reduce them so they can stay on task. What is their ideal environment to do homework? Where do they plan to do their homework on campus?

Ask your student to describe three coping strategies they can use to reduce stress when schoolwork gets challenging (e.g. exercise, journaling, talking with friends and family).

Part of being an adult is making difficult decisions about how to spend your time wisely and at times, doing things you don’t want to do. Discuss with your student ways they can keep themselves motivated and engaged in important tasks, even when they would rather be doing something else.

Help your student visualize and describe what academic success look like after your first semester at Centre? What specifically will they do, and what specific tools and strategies will they use, to achieve this vision? Review this list of helpful links to a wide variety of academic support resources.