Transitioning from high school to college can present unique challenges for students with diverse learning needs. The academic schedule, social landscape, and support structures undergo significant changes. While high school students with documented disabilities receive support under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), college students qualify for services under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Although both legislations offer support and protections, there are distinct differences in service qualification, roles and responsibilities, and classroom instruction. This blog post explores these differences and highlights the importance of self-advocacy and executive function skills for college students. Virtual Hall can provide the necessary support for students to navigate this transition successfully.
Keywords: high school to college transition, diverse learning needs, IDEA, ADA, support structures, self-advocacy, executive function, Virtual Hall
Transitioning to college presents a range of challenges for students with diverse learning needs. Notably, the support structures in college differ significantly from those in high school. In high school, students who qualify for special education services under IDEA receive evaluations and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504 Plan to guide their support. However, in college, students may need to undergo evaluations at their own expense to qualify for accommodations under ADA. Documentation requirements for accommodations also vary, extending beyond the IEP or 504 Plan.
Roles and responsibilities also shift during the transition from high school to college. Under IDEA, the school takes the responsibility of identifying and supporting students with disabilities. In contrast, under ADA in college, students must self-identify with the accessibility services office on campus to receive accommodations. It becomes the student’s responsibility to ensure accommodations are in place for each class and semester. This requires self-advocacy skills and executive function to establish and maintain necessary accommodations, which were not as crucial in high school. Additionally, the communication dynamics between families and colleges change, with colleges primarily communicating with the student unless written consent is provided.
The instructional environment in college is notably different from high school, posing additional challenges for diverse learners. In high school, students may be eligible for both accommodations and modifications to their learning, whereas in college, only accommodations are provided. High school teachers often employ strategies such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and multi-sensory approaches to promote student engagement and learning. However, college-level instruction predominantly relies on traditional lecture formats, with UDL practices still emerging in higher education.
Navigating the contrasting service delivery structures between high school and college can be overwhelming for students. However, Virtual Hall offers support to develop the necessary self-advocacy and executive function skills required for a successful transition. Our program assists students in establishing relationships with campus service providers, ensuring ongoing support throughout their college journey.
Understanding the differences in support structures between high school and college is crucial for students with diverse learning needs. The shift in service qualification, roles and responsibilities, and classroom instruction necessitates self-advocacy and executive function skills. Virtual Hall provides the necessary support for students to navigate this complex transition successfully. By developing these skills and establishing relationships with campus service providers, students can ensure their needs are met and thrive throughout their college experience.