Parents and Guardians

We recognize that students' transition from high school to college is significant, which is why we wanted to highlight some of the important differences between high school and college for students with disabilities. 

Note that these tables are adapted from the 2010 AHEAD Guidelines, "Differences between High School and College for Students with Disabilities."

Applicable Laws

High School

I.D.E.A. (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Note: the I.D.E.A. is about success.


A.D.A (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990)

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Note: the A.D.A. is about access.

Required Documentation 

High School

I.E.P (Individualized Education Plan and/or 504 Accommodation Plan)

The school provides evaluation at no cost to the student.

Documentation focuses on determining whether a student is eligible for services based on specific disability categories in I.D.E.A.


High School I.E.P and 504 plans are sufficient on a case-by-case basis. 

The student must get an evaluation at their own expense.

Current documentation must provide information on the specific nature of the condition or disability, and functional limitations, and also demonstrate the need for specific accommodations. 


High School

The student is identified by the school and supported by parents and teachers.

The primary responsibility for arranging accommodations belongs to the school.

Teachers approach the student if they believe assistance is needed. 


Students must self-identify to their college's disability services office. 

The primary responsibility for self-advocacy and arranging accommodations belongs to the student. 

Faculty are usually open and helpful, but most expect the student to initiate contact if the student needs assistance.

Parental Role 

High School

The parent has access to student records and can participate in the accommodation process.

The parent advocates for the student.


The parent does not have access to their student's records without the student's written consent.

The student must self-advocate. 


High School

Teachers may modify the curriculum and/or alter the pace of assignments.

Students are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed, and often retaught, in class.

Students seldom need to read anything more than once, and sometimes listening in class is enough.


Faculty are not required to modify curriculum design or alter assignment deadlines (unless an accommodation has been established).

Students are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing that may not be directly addressed in class.

Students need to review class notes and text material regularly. 

Grades and Tests 

High School      

The I.E.P. or 504 plan may include modifications to test format and/or grading.  

Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material.

Makeup tests are often available. Teachers often take time to remind the student of assignments and due dates. 


Grading and test format changes (i.e., multiple choice versus essay) are generally not available. How tests are given (i.e., extended time, test proctors) may be considered an appropriate academic adjustment when supported by disability documentation.

Testing is usually infrequent and may be cumulative, covering large amounts of material.

Makeup tests are rarely an option without permission from faculty.

Faculty expect the student to read, save, and consult the course syllabus (outline); the syllabus spells out exactly what is expected of the student (i.e., due dates, how work will be graded).

Study Responsibilities 

High School

Tutoring and study support may be a service provided as part of an I.E.P or 504 plan.

The student's time and assignments are structured by others.

Students may study outside of class for as little as less than an hour to two hours a week, and this may be mostly last-minute test preparation.


Tutoring does not fall under disability services and is not considered an academic adjustment or accommodation. Students with disabilities must seek out tutoring resources because they are available to all students.

Students manage their own time and complete assignments independently.

Students need to study at least two or three hours outside of class for each hour in class.

For more information or to contact Accessibility Resources for Students, please email or call 617-747-2387.