CDD logo

The Center for Development and Disability

Contact Partners for Employment

Like us on Facebook 

Join Our Email List

Carrie Roberts
Partners for Employment Education and Outreach Manager

Marcy Hintz
School-to-Work Transition Lead/Statewide Project SEARCH Coordinator

Rebecca Roybal
Training and Technical Assistance Program Manager

Postsecondary Education Transition

High school to College

The transition from high school to college involves a big shift to independence in terms of what is expected of the student. When you leave high school and enter college, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the accommodations or services you received as part of your IEP no longer apply. Instead, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act help to provide you with the accommodations you will need in college. 

This is an important and key difference between high school and college.  Essentially, it means you will need to do the following:

  • Identify and request the accommodations that you require
  • Be able to document your disability in order to request those accommodations
  • Understand your college’s Disability Resource Center’s policies and procedures for requesting accommodations

The following table further summarizes the main differences between high school and college so you can be better prepared for your first day of school. 

High School College
Student covered by IEP/IDEA Student covered by 504/ADA
Disability identified by parent/guardian and school Student must self-identify disability to college’s disability resource center (DRC)
IEP provides documentation of disability Documentation of disability, usually from a medical professional, is required by the DRC in order to get accommodations
Parent/guardian and teacher request accommodations through the IEP process Student must request accommodations through the DRC, parent/guardian cannot do this once student is age 18 (unless a legal guardian has been appointed by the court)
Accommodations may include adaptation of curricula and class requirements Accommodations are designed to support students with disabilities to participate fully in the postsecondary setting; may not include adaptation of curricula
In-class therapies provided by the school system No in-class therapies provided by college
May have special education teacher No special education teacher
Teachers and support staff work to be sure student is using accommodations No supervision of whether or not student is using accommodations
Progress reports provided No progress reports provided
IEP/disability records automatically transferred from high school to high school IEP/disability records not automatically transferred to college.  Student (or parent/guardian if students is under age 18) must request records transfer.
Parent/guardian has access to school information Parent/guardian has no access to school information (unless guardianship has been assigned by court)
Assistive tech devices may be provided to the student to use in class and out of class Assistive tech may be provided on campus, and student may have to provide own assistive tech off campus
More time in classroom, less independent learning outside of classroom More time learning on own outside of classroom, less time in classroom
Campuses tend to be smaller and classes are located closer together. Campuses may be much larger and it may take longer to get from one class to another.  This is an important consideration when planning your schedule. 

Disability Resource Centers

What is a DRC and what does it do?

  • Every college and university is required by law to have a disability resource center (DRC).
  • The purpose of the DRC is to provide reasonable accommodation so that students with disabilities can have equal educational access and opportunities.
  • Specific accommodations that are available to students through the DRC vary by institution.
  • Your college may use a term other than Disability Resource Center, such as Accessiblity Services or Disability Services.  The name may be different, but the function is essentially the same. 

Checklist for students with disabilities to get accommodations

  • Contact the college or university’s DRC as soon as possible.
  • Identify self to the DRC as a student with a disability/ies.
  • Find out what kind of documentation of disability is required by the DRC. This will vary by institution. Many DRCs require that this documentation of disability is from a medical professional and that it lists diagnoses and describes how the disability/ies impact learning in a college environment.
  • Provide the DRC with all required documentation of disability and any records from high school that the student wants the DRC to have.
  • Request needed accommodations, and work with DRC staff to come up with a list of what is needed, and what can be provided.
  • Give a list of the agreed-upon accommodations to all professors, each time they are updated, unless DRC staff state that they will do this.
  • Find out how often the DRC requires that the student check in to maintain accommodations. This is often once every semester or trimester, unless changes are needed in between those times.

Please note:

It is highly recommended that the student contact the DRC as soon as the student knows where they are attending college or university. This will give more time to gather the required documentation of disability, and begin the process of working with the DRC to determine what accommodations will be put in place so that they can be set up before the semester starts.

If a student receiving accommodations through a DRC is receiving the New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship, their college or university may approve the student to attend part-time instead of full-time, and to have additional semesters to complete their degree. See for more information on applying.

When calling or visiting the DRC for the first time, it may be helpful to ask:

  • What documentation of disability/ies is required?
  • What kinds of accommodations can be made?
  • How long will the process of determining appropriate accommodations take?
  • Does the student need to figure out what accommodations are needed, or does DRC staff help figure this out?
  • Who provides the list of accommodations to the professors?
  • How often will the student need to check in with the DRC about their accommodations?