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Preparing to Transition to College

There are a number of steps a high school student can take to actively prepare for transitioning to college. The U.S. Department of Education also provides guidance in preparing for college

Review Legislative Differences between High School and College

  • Practice articulating some changes between high school and college
  • Explain how these changes may impact you (e.g., how to disclose your disability, how to get disability-related services, what types of accommodations you may receive)
  • Recognize that privacy laws in college prevent college staff from communicating with parents/guardians about students’ disabilities, services, or grades without written permission from the students

Prepare for College Admissions

  • Research college admissions requirements early in order to take appropriate college preparation courses in high school
  • Recognize that students applying to college must meet the college’s standard admissions requirements (e.g., SAT scores, language requirements, etc.) regardless of disability
  • If applicable, complete the process to request accommodations for college entrance examinations
  • If desired, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and explore scholarship opportunities when applying for college
  • Connect with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), if appropriate
  • Tour college campuses to select the right environment for you (e.g., large student body vs. small/medium, rural environment vs. urban environment, class sizes, climate or temperature)

 Build Self-Awareness

  • Practice describing how your disability impacts you
  • Don’t use a disability “label” if that makes you uncomfortable but be able to talk about your strengths and your needs
  • Be involved in IEP/504 meetings and decisions in high school
  • Ask high school teachers if they can connect you to high school graduates who are currently in college to talk to them and learn from their experiences

 Develop Self-Advocacy

  • Practice explaining what academic accommodations you received in high school
  • Describe how you benefit from your academic accommodations
  • Consider establishing connections to medical care, both physical and emotional, local to your college to build support away from home
  • Start using a planner or calendar to organize activities and academics
  • Talk to school staff about learning and reading strategies
  • Practice independent living skills (e.g., waking up independently, managing and budgeting money, preparing meals, managing medication independently, building awareness of college safety issues)

 Initiate Services Early

  • Contact SDR on the Penn State campus where you will be enrolling and inquire about establishing services and documentation guidelines prior to entering college
  • Arrange an appointment to determine disability services eligibility and start services before your classes begin

 Prepare for Eligibility

  • Start a portfolio of documentation needed to get disability services in college
  • Schedule and complete evaluations to determine college disability services eligibility prior to exiting high school
  • Complete an intake with SDR staff on the Penn State campus where you will be enrolling

 Engage in Campus Life