Differences Between High School And College

The Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education has prepared a very detailed article that has proven to very helpful to students transitioning from High School to College.

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

There are many differences between High School services and College services. Knowing these differences will help you avoid misunderstandings about the availability of services.


High Schools:

  • Must identify students with disabilities and provide assessment of learning disabilities.
  • Classify disabilities according to specified diagnostic categories
  • Involve parents or guardians in placement decisions
  • Provide certain nonacademic services
  • Place students in programs where they can benefit in any way by placement committee with parent participation and approval
  • Structure a large part of the student's schedule
  • Modify educational programs
  • Prepare Individualized Education Plans (IEPS) and 504 Plans
  • Provide a free and appropriate education
  • Provide appropriate services by the school nurse or health service


  • Do not identify students with disabilities and do not provide assessments. All students are required to provide documentation of their disability, then the Office of Disability Services will evaluate the verifying documentation. If the documentation is not sufficient, the student will be notified to provide, at their own expense, more appropriate documentation.
  • Provide access to programs and services which are offered to persons without disabilities.
  • Determine that a mental or physical impairment causes a substantial limitation of a major life activity based on the documentation provided.
  • Determine whether a student is otherwise qualified, with or without accommodations, and if so, whether a reasonable accommodation can be provided.
  • Make reasonable adjustments in teaching methods which do not alter the essential content or functions of the course, program or college requirements.

Students have an increased responsibility in the College setting which include many activities that were assumed by the high school, such as:

  • Self identify or disclose their disability
  • Provide appropriate documentation of their disability and how it relates to the requested accommodation
  • Arrange their own tutors
  • Arrange for their own personal care attendants
  • Contact their instructors to ensure their accommodations are implemented in each course

(*thanks to BGSU Office of Disability Services for this information)