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?

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.

王文君 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:

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.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

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

Obviously that will depend in part on the nature of the exact support you received in high school. However, given the nature of the Americans With Disabilities Act there are certain things that every school, regardless of the level, must provide, and so anything that was a part of your high school’s response to that edict should still carry over. In general if you have a documented disability and you were given accommodation in response to the diagnosis in high school, it should carry over so long as the testing and the documentation are up to date. A student will have to contact the appropriate office at their college upon enrolling so that the process can be put in place, but it should not be an issue so long as appropriate communication is undertaken.

Kathleen Harrington
Owner New Jersey College Consulting

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

The disability services provided in college are not the same as those you may have received in high school. Students in grades k-12 are covered by IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; this law requires that special education and related services be designed to meet the needs of the eligible students. It is the schools responsibility to seek out the students in need of special educations services. In college, institutions are only required to provide "reasonable accommodations". A student attending a college/university must disclose their disability and request services that will allow him/her to be successful in the collegiate level.

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

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

It depends on the school. You can find a variety of services both in high school and at the college level. There some great programs for students with disabilities, but you will have to do some hunting. The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities is a good start.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

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

Minors are treated differently than adults, and college is an around the clock experience. There are differences too numerous to mention.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

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

The level of disability support will vary from one college to another and usually from high school to college. Students with disabilities will no longer be living at home with their parents and, depending upon their specific disabilities and the extent of their impairment, will usually require more support than was available in their high schools. The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, guarantees that all U.S. colleges/universities provide some level of services/accommodations for students with disabilities. Some institutions, taking this requirement further, offer comprehensive programs supporting learning and/or physically disabled students. Students should seek schools which offer the best support for their specific disabilities. Try the following websites: The U.S. Department of Education details the Rights and Responsibilities of Disabled Students at: