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Tips on Getting a Student with Disabilities Ready for College

Parents, counselors, teachers, and students with disabilities may use this list as a reminder of helpful skills and necessary steps to take as a high school student with a disability moves toward college.

  1. Make sure psychological testing is current and complete.
    Check the Disability Services information for the school you are interested in attending regarding Documentation Guidelines. The testing usually must have been done within the last 3 years. Take time while you are in high school to make sure your evaluations are as current as possible.
  2. Obtain all special testing records before high school graduation. 
    Some school systems destroy these records upon the student’s graduation. Colleges, as well as vocational rehabilitation offices, request these records to assist in providing special services to students.
  3. Make contact with the local Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) office before graduation.
    DRS offers a variety of services to eligible students such as vocational assessment, college programs, job placement, etc.
  4. Consider a vocational assessment as a way to clarify present and future goals.
  5. Make sure the student’s knowledge of study skills is adequate.
    In addition to high school assistance, consider special study skills classes/programs offered at community colleges, private agencies, or individual tutoring.
  6. Consult with the high school to get a good understanding of how much support or special help the student is receiving.
    It is important to determine realistically whether minimal disability support services or extensive accommodations at the college level will be needed.
  7. Help students to increase their independent living skills.
    Help them learn to manage their own checking accounts, do their own laundry, cleaning, some cooking, etc. Encourage part-time jobs or volunteer positions in order to improve socialization skills as well as to give a better understanding of work situations and expectations.
  8. Make sure students have a good understanding of their particular learning disability.
    They should know and be able to articulate their strengths and weaknesses as well as what compensating techniques and accommodations work best for them.
  9. Help students understand how their disability is connected to social experiences with peers, families, and employers.
    A visual or auditory discrimination deficit and/or an attention deficit disorder frequently lead to mis-cues and inappropriate timing in conversation.
  10. Encourage students to be their own advocate.
    A good first step is to encourage them to discuss their disability and needed accommodations, if any, with their regular high school instructors.
  11. Learn about Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
    This law indicates what types of accommodations must be provided and/or allowed at post-secondary institutions if a student requests them. The responsibility is on the individual to initiate the provision of services and accommodations at the college level.
  12. Get information on special exam arrangements for SAT and/or ACT. 
    Options include extended time on tests, alternative testing formats, etc..
  13. Contact the Disability Service Offices of colleges before applying.
    Get information on what kinds of services and support are available and the process for accessing accommodations.
  14. Visit colleges before making a definite choice.
    This is the college where you will hopefully be for 2 or 4 years so it is good to visit and get a feel for the campus and the programs they offer. Also, take a look at the communities in which they are located to determine access to transportation, etc..
  15. Make sure it is the student’s choice to attend college.
    The most successful college students with disabilities are those who have high levels of motivation and a good understanding of their particular strengths and weaknesses. They understand that it may be harder and take more time to manage college level work. They are committed to spend that extra time on studying and to request and use appropriate accommodations when needed.
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