Is the disability support services provided in college the same as those in high school?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

Is the disability support services provided in college the same as those in high school?

Jane McClure
Partner McClure, Mailory & Baron Educational Counseling

Is the disability support services provided in college the same as those in high school?

Here is my video response to the question.

Tyler Burton
President Burton College Tours

There is no guarantee

Students who are receiving support services in high school may have an IEP. Students who will require a continuation of services when they attend college will need to switch to a 504 Plan which will be covered by the American With Disabilities Act. That is the technical jargon. In short if you are receiving services now you will need to provide educational testing that has been administered within the past three years that documents your disability in order to have a continuation of services. The level of services change and students may receive accommodations, but not the skills support that they may have been receiving in high school. Some colleges have academic support programs which are formal for students with LD and other schools provide services like a writing lab which is available to all students.

Christina Reynolds
Guidance Counselor

Support Services in College

The disability support services provided in colleges differ quite a bit depending on the college. Many students with disabilities have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which follows them through high school and helps the student reach their educational goals more easily than they otherwise would. After the student graduates high school and moves on to college they can submit their IEP to the DSS office to see if they can receive the same accomodations but colleges are not required to offer them. There are many colleges that offer structured and proactive programs for students with learning disabilities, some of these programs are similar to what the student received in high school but there is often a fee associated with these programs. The best way to find out about the support offered by the college is to ask. Contact the Disability Support Services office and talk to them about your situation, they should be able to give you a good idea of what they can offer.

Lisa Carlton

How To Access College Disability Services

No! Many students and parents are confused about this issue. Disability Support Services in college are different from high school. Colleges do not use IEP's or 504's. Don't let this discourage you. I find many of my students get great services in college. The key is to understand the process to follow to access the services. The first step to accessing services is to have up to date testing that clearly states your diagnosis and needed accommodations. The testing must be done in the last three years. The next step is to complete the needed paperwork to apply for services. The Disability Support office will review your documents and determine what services and accommodations are offered to you. It is important to note that some colleges are more "disability friendly" than others. Find out about this process when you are considering colleges. A strong Disability Support Services office can greatly enhance your experience in college.

็Ž‹ๆ–‡ๅ› June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

not the same and don't compare it

there is a big difference in pulic and private high schools in supporting disability. therefore, you should expect the different in private college and public institutions. none of them are the same. it has a lot to do with funding resources, college's policy and support from the local and government agencies.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

DSS in College

There are big differences. In high school, IDEA's responsibility is to "provide a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to eligible students with disabilities, including special education and related services". IDEA does not govern college, only high school. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to college aged students. The ADA ensures that "no otherwise qualified person with a disability is denied access to, benefits of, or is subjected to discrimination in employment, education, or places of public accommodations". In other words, public high schools must provide the necessary services to guarantee LD students an education. Colleges do not have to provide services beyond the ADA requirements. High schools seek to give their students what it takes for them to succeed, colleges provide an equal opportunity to participate. In college, there is no "right" to an education. The student must provide the college with appropriate documentation to request accommodations, the student must be their own advocate, and there is no "due process" because the college does not have to give you the tools you need. If you are an LD student, be careful when choosing a college, make sure the college has appropriate services for what you need. Here is a website to clarify matters:

Rana Slosberg
Owner Slosberg College Solutions LLC

College Disability Services are Different

Some accommodations provided in high school may not be provided in college. IEPs and 504 plans "expire" when students graduate high school. In college, the law doesn't require accommodations that fundamentally alter the essential requirements of a course, the college to change their core curriculum, or for the college to provide assistance that is personal in nature. The focus in college is on avoiding discrimination and on making students into independent learners through assistive technology and/or compensatory strategies.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

That depends...

Many colleges have far better support services for students than most high schools, but that does not mean all do. It is very much a case by case situation. You need to look closely at the services provided by the colleges you are considering. If you need a more comprehensive program it might be smart to hire a consultant to help you. It can become overwhelming to navigate and a consultant who knows about LD services will know which colleges have better programs. There are not actually a lot of colleges with the highest level, most thorough services.

Ed Garcia
Assistant Professor/Counselor Austin Community College


In high school it was up to the school to identify students, and then provide appropriate services. At the high school level students could be identified and then recommended for testing by a faculty, staff, administrator or a parent. If a disability is identified then it was up to the school to provide special education services through the development of an individualized education plan (IEP). At the college level students must self identify. They must contact the appropriate office and self identify. Usually offices that assist student with disabilities will be called "Office for Students with Disabilities," "Resource Center for Students with Disabilities," or "Office for Accommodations for Students with Disabilities." When students self identify and attempt to qualify for services they will need to complete some sort of application process. In addition, make sure you have documentation, documentation, documentation! Make sure you have documentation of your disability.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Is the disability support services provided in college the same as those in high school?

Every campus will have a different delivery system for student support services. While some schools specialize in meeting the needs of students with learning differences, others will expect you to totally manage on your own. When you are doing campus visits you need to make sure you address these concerns, so that there are no surprises once you arrive in the fall. Some institutions will charge for services, others will use student tutors vs. professional tutors, and others will expect you to make all of your own arrangements. Whatever the case, make sure you are realistic about whether you can be successful given the set up on the campus you choose.