Incoming Students Disability Resources Guide

The Incoming Students Disability Resources Guide was created to help prepare for transition to the college learning environment. The guide covers:

  • Differences between high school and college accommodations
  • Transition tips for students with disabilities
  • Parent and family transition tips
  • Campus visits

We are happy to speak with students by email, phone, or appointment, and encourage that this contact be made well in advance so services are in place at the start of the semester.

Differences Between High School and College Accommodation

In high school, services were implemented by a team of educators and parents with an aim toward promoting your success. When you enter college the responsibility shifts. You must seek out assistance by contacting disability service offices, such as Disability Resources, to arrange access.

This is a fundamental change in the way that you relate to instructors and advisers; as a college student, you will now initiate all services and accommodations.

Differences between High School and College Accommodation

Differences Between High School and College Accommodation

High School


Focus is to promote SUCCESS

Focus is to provide ACCESS

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is implemented at the secondary school level with an aim toward success for all students entitled to a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) at their Local Education Agency (LEA).

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act guides college-level accommodation policy with an aim toward access for “otherwise qualified” students based on the colleges’ admission criteria.

Modification of instruction and curriculum are commonly provided in response to student learning needs.

Through an interactive interview process, reasonable accommodations are identified to ensure equal access and participation. Students are responsible for meeting the standards of the course, and essential elements of the course objectives are not modified.

The LEA is responsible for identifying a student’s disability, determining eligibility for services and implementing appropriate accommodations.

Students identify their request for services to the disability office, and provide documentation that verifies eligibility for accommodations specific to a functional limitation.

Cost of evaluations are borne by the LEA

Cost of evaluations are borne by the student

Individual Education Plans or 504 Plans are created to guide the student’s instruction and mandate services

Higher education institutions do not develop comparable individual education plans

Teachers and parents arrange services and assistance for the student

Students must initiate request for services and arrange required accommodations

School-based services based on demonstrated need are put in place to promote success, such as:

  • Special education classes
  • Co-teaching and resource room
  • Teaching assistants or personal aides
  • Speech therapy/OT/PT providers
  • Extended time exams
College accommodations are intended to mitigate the impact of disability based on eligibility to ensure access, such as:
  • Alternative testing arrangements
  • Assistive technology/software
  • Alternative formats
  • Communication access services

Personal aide services are arranged and provided by school district

College is not responsible for personal aide services

Teachers and parents remind students to complete homework, help in exam preparation, and aid with time management

Students independently plan homework and create reading and study schedules

High school provides a highly regimented, closely monitored schedule with homework assigned at regular intervals

College schedule has more free, unstructured time; classes meet less frequently, more difficult homework, and heavy reading load

Parents communicate routinely with teachers, and can easily monitor student academic progress

Parents have no contact with instructors, and written consent is required to access student progress

Parents and teachers guide and intervene on the student’s behalf, recommending strategies and supports

Students need to self-advocate, articulate their needs for services and accommodations proactively, and pursue resources on campus for assistance

Attribution: The Advocacy Consortium and Learning Disabilities Association of America

Transition Tips for Students with Disabilities

Self-advocacy and self-management are vital skills to develop in order to be a successful college student. Self-determined students exhibit a strong desire to succeed, know how to persevere, have clear goals and an understanding and acceptance of their disability.

Throughout grades 9-12 it is important to be involved in every aspect of planning for college. The checklist below may help you make successful plans:

College Preparation Checklist

College Preparation Checklist



Explore your aptitude and interests to determine potential areas of study and career goals.

Visit your high school guidance office or consult with transition specialist to complete interest surveys to narrow down academic interests and college search.

Understand the differences in laws and services between secondary and post-secondary education.

Research how laws impact your eligibility for services.

Check that disability evaluation records are up to date and fulfill college documentation guidelines.

Colleges set their own recency requirements.

Thinking ahead to graduate level exam accommodations is recommended.

Document the use of assistive technology as it applies to college-level academics.

Do your homework on devices, software, and applications that were beneficial during high school.

Explore agency resources such as adult career and continuing education services through vocational rehabilitation (ACCES-VR in NYS).

Check your IEP transition plan for continuity of services through outside agencies.

Become knowledgeable about your disability, its impact on learning, and your strengths and weaknesses as a learner.

Read your educational evaluations to understand your needs as a learner.

Develop a deeper understanding of your disability.

Research study strategies that promote success and meet your individual needs.

Make an honest self-assessment of your social/emotional readiness for college.

Speak with your health care provider to maintain a continuity of counseling services, if needed.

Reach a level of comfort in explaining your disability and need for accommodations to college advisers and instructors.

Be an active participant in your IEP or 504 review meetings.

Practice explaining your disability to high school teachers to gain confidence in self-advocacy.

Recognize when to ask for assistance.

Do not hesitate to seek out help.

Determine the most appropriate route to seek help.

Explore available campus resources; consider making an appointment to acquaint yourself with their services.

Exhibit self-motivation and self-management.

Work on independently staying on track so you will be less likely to fall behind.

Practice independent decision-making, and take responsibility.

Recognize that you are in charge and will live with the consequences of your actions (which may be expensive!).

If possible, consider taking a college course while in high school or attend a summer program sponsored by a college to better self-assess your readiness to make the transition to college-level academics. Be aware of the increased level of academic difficulty, increased workload, and pace of instruction.

Because most academic content is delivered by lecture, paying attention and having the note taking skills to identify main ideas for later review is vital for acquiring, expanding, and integrating knowledge. More weight is given to a limited number of assignments and exams that factor into final grades. Instructors are available during office hours, and students are expected to approach them with questions and solicit feedback to check for understanding.

Attribution: Transition of Students With Disabilities To Post secondary Education: A Guide for High School Educators and LD Online: College and College Prep

Parent and Family Transition Tips

Every family’s journey to this point is as unique as each student, and parents deserve respect for their years of advocacy in support of their child prior to the start of college. We acknowledge that this time is a transition for parents, too, as your role shifts from being an advocate to becoming a cheerleader.

Your role might have changed, but your involvement and guidance remains important. A parent's active support can be a welcome influence in a student's successful transition to the post-secondary environment.

We look forward to partnering with you!

Parents' role for college transition and beyond:

  • Allow yourself time to learn the best ways of being involved and when it's appropriate to step aside
  • Make a plan to keep in touch; agree on method and frequency
  • Guide, rather than pressure and direct
  • Give unconditional support and encouragement
  • Encourage your student to be proactive
  • Discuss the importance of self-advocacy
  • Allow your student to make his/her own decisions and take responsibility for those decisions
  • Encourage active participation in clubs or volunteer organizations
  • Remind your student of available resources at Rochester
  • Congratulate your student on successes

Parents of admitted students should watch for an invitation to our session "Moving from Advocacy to Support: Your New Role as the Parent of a College Student with a Disability" during the Parent Orientation Program.

Nationally known disability consultant, Jane Jarrow, PhD, published “An Open Letter to Parents of Students With Disabilities About to Enter College” that many find comforting as they develop a new relationship with their adult, college-aged child. It is worth reading and sharing.

Campus Visits

While visiting the University of Rochester during an admissions event or on your own, students and families are welcome to stop by or make an appointment to meet with an access coordinator. This is a great opportunity to review expectations, ask questions, and obtain clarification regarding services and accommodations provided by our office.

We are located on the River Campus in Taylor Hall.

Getting Here

Campus Accessibility Map

About the University of Rochester