Transitioning: High School vs College

A Message for Students & Parents

The DisAbility Access Services office (DAS) at Guilford Technical Community College understands the active role parents play in making sure that their children receive the accommodations and services they need to achieve their goals throughout their K-12 education. Accordingly, we encourage parents to continue to provide this invaluable support and guidance. However, because of the differences between secondary and post-secondary institutions, the manner of parent participation will change. Please use the information below to prepare your daughter/son for the transition to college.

One of the most important elements of a successful transition from high school to college for all students is being prepared. Like most things, the importance of “being prepared” for students with disabilities is magnified. Disabled students are moving from an environment where they may, or may not, have played an active role in the accommodations/services process, to an environment in which they bear the responsibility for requesting and managing the accommodations/services they need. Understanding the different service delivery models will go a long way towards allowing your son/daughter to achieve their goals.

In high school, a student’s day is usually pretty routine; classes meet back-to-back, and students are prompted by a bell to move from one place or task to the next. In college, students manage their own time. They schedule their classes. They manage their study times. They determine when and where to eat lunch. The “flip side” to this new level of control is a corresponding increase in the level of accountability. In other words, they reap the benefits or suffer the consequences of the choices they make. This is especially true with their academics. It is essential that they take advantage of all available academic resources, and arrange and manage their accommodations / services in an effective manner. Their DAS counselor can help them with this.

In high school, the focus of instruction leans toward memorization. In college students will be expected to apply the knowledge/skills they develop to demonstrate their understanding. In high school, the material covered is relatively concise, and the instruction students receive is specific to the details they are expected to know.  In college, students will need to learn to cover a greater amount of material and extract the details they need to apply to demonstrate their understanding. Being aware of these differences will enable college students to approach their studies in a more effective manner.

For more information about the differences between high school and college for students with disabilities, please refer to the article “Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities” (an Office of Civil Rights publication).