Rock Valley College

Transitioning to College

As a student with a disability, moving from high school to college can be an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. Your experience in college will be very different from what you have grown accustomed to at the secondary level. As a student with a disability it is important that you know and understand what your rights and responsibilities are as well as what responsibilities the college has toward you. Being well informed will maximize your experience at the college as well as reduce confusion and delay in getting your needs met.

Student Responsibilities

  • Self-Advocacy: You need to understand your disability, how it is limiting to you, and be able to communicate this information to others effectively.  It is your responsibility to seek out resources for assistance in college.  If you require assistance with self-advocating for yourself or communicating with your instructors, let a DSS staff member know so they can help.
  • Classroom behavior: You must be able to adhere to acceptable standards of behavior and abide by the college's code of conduct.  Students with disabilities are not exempt from behavior expectations and must adhere to the same standards as all other students.
  • Independence: You need to manage your course schedule and the day-to-day demands of the academic experience without relying on parental involvement.  As a college student, you are now expected to make your own decisions and be responsible for managing your own academic affairs.

College's Responsibilities

  • Accommodations: The college provides reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities who have met the requirements for eligibility to ensure equal access to the programs and services offered.
  • Confidentiality: The college is obligated to protect the student's right to privacy and confidentiality in accordance to FERPA
  • Procedures: The college is responsible for establishing reasonable procedures for requesting accommodations as well as informing students of such. The Disability Support Services handbook provides detailed information on policies and procedures relating to academic accommodations.


The transition from high school to college is not only daunting for the student, but it is an eye-opening experience for parents as well.  It can often be difficult to learn that the mandated services provided under IDEA no longer apply as a student moves into the post-secondary and adult service delivery systems.  Educating yourself on the differences in civil rights laws, college rights and responsibilities, and adult services will help make your child's transition into adulthood smoother.

To facilitate the transition process, it is crucial that you begin to teach- and allow- your son or daughter to start doing for themselves what others have done for so many years.  In college it will be the student's responsibility to advocate for themselves and seek out the services needed, so now is the time to assist him/her in building the skills needed for life-long self-advocacy.  Often, students are not aware of how much has been done for him or her and they may not even understand what their disability is and how it relates to the services they need.

Jane Jarrow, a professional who has been working in the field of disability services in higher education for over 30 years, put together an Open Letter to Parents.  The letter speaks from a parent perspective, as Jane is also a parent of a daughter who has disabilities.  She offers helpful insight, suggestions, and hope to parents who are navigating the transition process from high school to college.

The following chart can be helpful in explaining the differences between laws at the K-12 level vs. post-secondary institutions.  And finally, the U.S. Department of Education publishes an informative transition guide detailing the differences between high school and college.

If you would like more information on the process of transition, or to discuss how things will be different in college, please contact the DSS office at (815) 921-2371.

Transition Resource Guide

This  handbook  was  developed  by  the  agencies  of  Intersect  for  Ability-Rockford,  a collaborative  group  of  organizations  serving  people  with  developmental  disabilities  in  the Rockford, Illinois region. Funding for this resource guide was realized through a grant award from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois.

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