The transition from high school to college is a big step for any student, but for students with learning disabilities, making the change is even more challenging. Although there are no Section 504 plans or individual education plans (IEPs) in college, students with learning disabilities have a right to reasonable accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Therefore, if you are a learning-disabled student who aspires to go to college, it’s important to know your rights when planning your transition from high school so that you can succeed in college.
The American with Disabilities Act defines a reasonable accommodation as an adjustment that allows a person with a disability to perform needed tasks based on that person’s individual needs.
Titles II and III of the ADA cover the rights of students with disabilities who attend an institution of higher education. Any post-secondary schools—public or private—that receive federal financial assistance must adhere to Section 504 requirements.
Unlike Section 504, which requires school districts to provide appropriate public education free of charge to K-12 students with disabilities living within the district, the primary protection that students attending post-secondary schools receive is that the school cannot discriminate against them based off a disability.
A college also may not deny a student admission based on disability, providing that he or she meets the other admission criteria.
Because college students age 18 and older are viewed as adults, your parents no longer maintain the legal right to play a part in the decision-making that makes certain you get the education you want. Without the aid of your parents and school guidance counselors, advocacy becomes your responsibility. When you are no longer able to turn to a parent for help with assignments or constant motivation under added academic demands, it becomes even more important to seek the support services that are available on campus.
When entering college or another post-secondary education program, it is up to you to request the accommodations that you may need. You must learn to be your own best advocate.
In preparing for the transition from high school to post-secondary education, the best time for you to submit the documentation necessary to request special accommodations is at the same time you submit your college application.
A college will require that you submit current and accurate documentation as proof of your disability before the school provides reasonable accommodations. Since the procedures necessary to request help vary by college, your must follow the guidelines and policy of the college you are attending.
It is your responsibility as the student to provide documentation that establishes the validity of your request for accommodations. Documentation attesting to a specific learning disability should identify what types of accommodations may be necessary to help you achieve academic success.
An evaluation by a physician, licensed psychologist, counselor or certified learning disability specialist will confirm your learning disability and suggest appropriate accommodations that will give you an equal opportunity to learn. Diagnostic reports should describe the nature of the learning disability in addition to the academic support services you received in high school. You, not the college, must pay for the cost of any evaluations.
Some colleges require that students submit additional documentation such as proof of IEP or a Section 504 plan in high school. Consequently, you may also have to show that accommodations were made when you took standardized testing like the SAT or the ACT. These various forms of documentation help an institution of higher learning determine if you qualify for admission into the school and the academic program of choice.
Key Documentation Components
The documentation you provide must specifically show that despite a learning disability, you otherwise meet the qualifications of the college program in which you wish to enroll. For example, you must achieve at least the minimum score to meet a program’s eligibility requirements.
Unlike an IEP, a college is not required to modify a curriculum or course requirements for a student protected under the ADA. However, the school must guarantee your rights in other ways.
A college may provide tutoring services, but is not legally required to provide more tutoring support than it provides to students who are not disabled. Although an instructor may not change the contents of an exam or lower the academic standards of a course to allow a student with a learning disability to pass, an instructor can provide a reader, give you more time to complete an exam or offer an alternative format.
Academic support services and career counseling are also available to help guide you.
If you are a high school student with a learning disability and are currently planning to attend college, the professionals at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights can help by providing testing, evaluation and support throughout the college admissions process.