Information for Parents

Differences between high school and college

As your student prepares for the transition to college, it is important for both of you to understand the significant differences between high school and college accommodations. For example:

  • Under FERPA, all college students are considered adults, regardless of age
  • Students must communicate directly with faculty and staff, and vise versa
  • Students must self-advocate to request support services, including accommodations
  • The scope and purpose of accommodations shift from success to access at the postsecondary level

Accommodations are provided to ensure equitable access to programs and curriculum under Section 504 and the ADAAA. [Differences Between HS and College Accom and Svcs]

College students must act on their own behalf and choose to disclose a disability to ACC’s Student Accessibility Services (SAS) staff and request accommodations.

Parents are welcome to request general information regarding SAS and the process for establishing SAS services. However, a student must make the official or formal request, follow SAS procedure, and interact with staff as necessary to establish services and receive accommodations.


Encourage your student to become comfortable discussing their disability and how it affects their learning. They should also be familiar with the accommodations or modifications they receive in high school so they can discuss the college accommodations that will give them access to their course materials and help “level the playing field.”

To begin developing strong self-advocacy skills while still in high school, allow your student to:

  • Lead their ARDs
  • Explain effect of diagnosis on learning
  • Try different study and time management strategies
  • Communicate with school staff
  • Learn when, where, and how to request support
  • Begin a personal file that includes diagnostic documentation of disability, school reports like FIEs or REEDs, plans like 504s or IEPs, and treatment plans from other providers

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Under FERPA, the rights afforded to parents shift to the student when the student turns 18 or pursues postsecondary education.

For more information, go to FERPA – Department of Education.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

While legislation for K-12 (IDEA) persons with disabilities is focused on student success, the ADA, as it applies to the college environment, is focused on making sure that students with disabilities have access to the various programs, services and activities of the college.

That is not to say colleges are not interested in student success, and most provide an array of academic support services to help all students perform at their highest level. It does mean that federal laws that may have required certain accommodations in K-12 are different than those for colleges and universities.

The ADA ensures equal access and opportunity and also protects persons with disabilities from discrimination. While the ADA does require colleges to make reasonable accommodations to allow a student to fully demonstrate his or her level of learning and to fully participate in the college experience both in and outside of the classroom, the ADA does not require colleges to provide special educational services, therapies, or curriculum modifications that fundamentally alter the nature of the academic course or the major program of study.

For more information on the ADA, please visit

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