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Differences between High School and College

If you are making the change from high school or work to attending a college, it can be quite an adjustment. Many students had a closely supervised high school experience with an IEP or a 504 plan in place wherein a team of professionals and your parents, and sometimes you, determined the services and assistance you would be provided in school. One of the major differences between high school and college is that in college you become the primary person responsible for asking for assistance because of a disability and for providing the necessary documentation and information to justify the services you request.

Please read the information below. It illustrates the major differences between high school and college. This information will help you plan for your transition and help you understand what your responsibilities are as a student at UW.


  • High School

            o IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)

            o Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973

            o IDEA is about Success

  • College

            o ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990)

            o ADAAA (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act, 2008)

            o Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973

            o The ADA and the ADAAA are about Access


  • High School

            o IEP (Individual Education Plan) and/or 504 Plan and/or Summary of Performance documents

are developed for services planning

            o School provides evaluation at no cost

            o Documentation focuses on determining whether the student is eligible for services based on specific

disability categories in IDEA

  • College

            o High school IEPs and 504 plans may be sufficient. Documentation guidelines specify information what

is needed and how it may be provided.

            o Student may need to obtain an evaluation at own expense.

            o Documentation typically offers information on specific functional limitations, and demonstrates the need

for specific accommodations.


  • High School

            o Student is identified by the school and is supported by parents and teachers

            o Primary responsibility for arranging accommodations belongs to the school

            o Teachers approach you if they believe you need assistance

  • College

            o Student must self-identify to Disability Support Services

            o Primary responsibility for self-advocacy and arranging accommodations belongs to the student

            o Professors are usually open and helpful, but most expect students to initiate contact


  • High School

            o Parent has access to student records and can participate in the accommodation process

            o Parent advocates for student

  • College

            o Parent does not have access to student records without student's written consent

            o Student advocates for self


  • High School

            o Teachers may modify curriculum and/or alter curriculum pace of assignments

            o Students may be expected to read short assignments that are then discussed and often

re-taught in class

            o Students seldom need to read anything more than once, sometimes listening in class is enough

  • College

            o Professors are not required to modify design or routinely extend assignment deadlines

            o Students are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing which may not be directly

addressed in class

            o Students need to review class notes and text and material regularly


  • High School

            o IEP or 504 plan may include modifications to test format and/or grading

            o Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material

            o Makeup tests are often available

            o Teachers often take time to remind students of assignments and due dates

  • College

            o Grading and test format changes (i.e. multiple choice vs. essay) are generally not available.

Accommodations to HOW tests are given (extended time, use of a computer, etc.) are available

when supported by information about a student's functional limitations.

            o Testing is usually infrequent and may be cumulative, covering large amounts of material

            o Make-up tests are seldom an option; if they are, students are responsible for requesting them

            o Professors expect students to read, save, and consult the course syllabus (outline); the syllabus spells out

exactly what is expected of students, when it is due, and how students will be graded


  • High School

            o Tutoring and study support may be a service provided as part of an IEP or 504 plan

            o Students' time and assignments are structured by others

            o Students may study outside of class as little as 0 to 2 hours a week, and this may be mostly

last-minute test preparation

  • College

            o Tutoring DOES NOT fall under Disability Services' accommodation requirements. Students with

disabilities must seek out tutoring resources available to all college students.

            o Students are expected to manage their own time and complete assignments independently.

            o Students usually need to study at least 2 to 3 hours outside of class for each hour in class.

It can be quite challenging to balance school, work, and a social life. Be prepared to develop a plan for organizing your time.  Never hesitate to ask for help and be sure to study hard! And most importantly, have fun!

(Information courtesy of University of North Carolina Pembroke)

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Disability Support Services

University of Wyoming

Dept. 3135, 1000 E. University Ave.

109 Knight Hall

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307 766-3073

TeleType: 307 766-3073

Fax: 307 766-3298


1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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