Caregivers, Parents, Caseworkers


When students enroll in a college or university, they are considered to be responsible adults by faculty and staff. The expectations are that they will assume responsibilities for meeting their class requirements.

This added responsibility is coupled with a change in environment. High school is a teaching environment in which students acquire knowledge and skills.

A college or university has a learning environment in which students take responsibility for thinking through and applying what they have learned.

Another student responsibility is that of self-advocacy. Students must become adept at realistically assessing and understanding their strengths, weaknesses, needs and preferences. They must become experts at communicating this information to other adults, including instructors and service providers. Good communication skills and knowledge about oneself become crucial to success at any college or university.

Preparing a High School Student for Higher Education

Parents, guardians, and caseworkers can help their student achieve a smooth transition to college life by helping them to prepare for higher education, the new experience of college, and knowing what information is available to parents.

Preparing for a successful college or university experience begins early in school.

Statistically, students with disabilities are less likely to enter college and those who do attend are less likely to graduate than their peers without disabilities. If your student is going to accomplish their goals, you have to plan and support the decisions that can lead to later success.

Use the following list to help your student plan for a college or university, and discuss all of these points with your student:

  1. Recognize that your student with a disability will go through the same experiences as their non-disabled peer.
  2. Preparation for higher education needs to start early in your student’s high school years.
  3. Ask the high school staff for information regarding appropriate post-secondary choices, such as technical college, community college, or university.
  4. Explore the benefits of extending the high school graduation date to take advantage of transition programs.
  5. Work with your student’s high school teachers and support staff, and community agencies to identify transition activities that will prepare your student for higher education.
  6. Contact the admissions office of several colleges or universities. Ask to speak with the service provider for students with disabilities. Talk with the service provider about the admissions process for students with disabilities, how students must document their disability, and what resources and services that institution offers to students with disabilities.
  7. Ensure that your student will have the necessary recent testing that a college or university needs to document a disability. This includes but is not limited to learning disabilities. This testing can be done during the senior year of high school but schedule it early. Have these reports and copies of your student’s most recent disability assessment, IEP (Individual Education Plan) or 504 Plan, and transition plan available for college staff.
  8. Encourage your student to contact rehabilitation services to determine eligibility for services. Rehabilitation services can help with financial and equipment support for students with disabilities.
  9. If your student’s chosen college or university requires post admissions test results, learn the process for requesting testing accommodations. If your student needs testing accommodations, the need must be documented.
  10. Ensure that your student learns to use reasonable and appropriate accommodations. These accommodations are determined based on documented need and may include but are not limited to test taking, note taking, reading texts, and using adaptive technology.
  11. Remember your student has the responsibility to notify the college or university that they have a disability identifying their needs and provide appropriate documentation of those needs. The college or university provides reasonable accommodation based on documentation of the disability.

What information is available to parents, guardians, families, and caseworkers regarding educational records?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. Students at colleges or universities have the legal right to control access to information about them.

Some information, called "directory data," is public and available to anyone, even parents and guardians.

Almost all other information such as grades or class schedules is private and, in most cases, a student's written authorization is required to release to a third party private information held by a college or university.

Parents, guardians, families, and caseworkers are legally considered to be "third parties" and need their student’s written permission to access private data about them.