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Independent Living, Employment, Post-Secondary Education

Post-Secondary Education


What does Transition Planning for Post-Secondary Education mean?

It is a common misconception that this domain refers only to going to a 4-year university. However, it covers skills and preparation needed to attend a variety of post-secondary education settings (universities, community colleges, technical school, military, apprenticeships, job-training programs, etc.). These skills may be in areas such as choosing a major, class selection, assignment completion, test-taking, organization, study skills, etc. All students with disabilities can and should attend some form of post-secondary education!

Why is Transition Planning for Post-Secondary Education important?

Being a life-long learner is critical! Further education past a high school diploma, whether at college, technical school, or job-specific, is a major key leading to increased pay and security, and often the difference between a job and a career. 

According to a Utah state survey of students with disabilities out of high school for one year, 49% had attended some form of post-secondary education (Utah Post-High School Outcome Project). This number was significantly higher for Davis School District students, at 72%. Unfortunately, many colleges and organizations report that students with disabilities often come unprepared for the requirements and rigors of the many forms of post-secondary education.

Even students with intellectual disabilities and other severe needs can attend college, learn skills, and be successful!

  • Many colleges across the country are developing programs for students with intellectual disabilities! Utah State University has one, called Aggies Elevated. Check out their website! 
  • Think College is a great website that provides information about college options for students with intellectual disabilities. However, the resources and tools on the site are easily generalized to students with all disabilities.

What are Post-Secondary Education settings looking for in students?

While there are different requirement for different settings, there are some common themes:

  • Students who have knowledge of their disability.  More specifically, they should have knowledge of their specific disability, their strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, accommodations they have used and may need, etc. They also need to be willing to discuss these items, as well as provide documentation and evaluation, in order receive services for their disabilities.

  • Students who advocate for themselves. Because the students are usually over 18, parents are no longer the legal guardian, and students need to be able to talk for themselves. Parents will often be allowed to attend meetings as a courtesy, the focus shifts to the students themselves. Additionally, the student must assume responsibility to become proactive and advocate for themselves (as opposed to public education, where the school assumes most of the responsibility).

  • Students who are "otherwise qualified." This phrase comes out of the law, and means that even when the accommodations are identified and used, the students must still be able to meet the organization's academic and/or skill standards. In other words, accommodations may not "fundamentally alter" the essential (or core) components of the program. The definition of these essential components may be different for each program and school.

  • Students who are well-rounded. Colleges often look for people who have been involved in clubs, organizations, volunteering, and other extracurricular activities. Not only do these items look good on an application, but participation in them provides opportunities to learn and practice life skills in preparation for transition outcomes.

How should a student prepare for Post-Secondary Education?

  • Learn about and be comfortable with your disability. (Applies to students and families.) This includes how it affects you, what accommodations help you, and recognizing that it doesn't have to control your life. The earlier you do this, the better off you will be!

  • Learn to advocate for yourself. This means be able to talk to others when you need assistance rather than waiting for someone else to recognize and offer to help. It also means being proactive and taking control of your situation!

    • Post-secondary education is different than high school! Check out this link and this link to see examples of how they are different. You are required to be responsible and have the appropriate study habits. You can't turn them on after high school if you don't have them, though! Start developing them now!

      • Academictips.org has some great resources for developing a wide variety of study skills, including note-taking, stress reduction, memorization, and many more!

    • Disability Resource Center at post-secondary schools (see below) will require you (and not your parents!) to talk to them about your disability and how it affects you. Fill out this form about how your accommodations have helped you. Practice talking about it with teachers and other trusted adults, and role-play answering questions. 

    • Don't be afraid to fail! Being able to problem-solve and move forward after a failure is an important life skill and should be a learning experience. Nobody is perfect! In fact, one person from a local disability resource center who determines how prepared students are said that "being allowed to fail" is one of the best things that can happen to a student, and the earlier it happens, the better.

  • Work hard to be "otherwise qualified." This mean to begin preparing early on to meet the basic requirements of programs you are interested in. Here are a few ideas that may help:

    • Entrance Tests. Many post-secondary institutions require students to take the ACT test. Instead of being worried about it, prepare for and tackle it! The test can be taken up to 5 times per year during a student's junior and senior years.

      • Check out ACT's website for basic information about the test.

      • Practice! There are practice resources on the ACT website as well. Utahfutures.org also has practice tests and information. There are also a number of practice books that can be purchased at local bookstores.

      • The ACT test allows accommodations. They must be applied for separately, and will require copies of previous IEP or 504 plans documenting the need for such accommodations. The types of accommodations are limited, and it is up to ACT to decide whether to grant them based on your application.

    • Take the appropriate classes in high school. Taking too many classes that are "easy" or over-accommodated may result in having passing grades, but leave you lacking in the necessary skills!

  • Be well rounded! Join clubs that you may be interested in, participate in sports and other activities, volunteer in church and in the community. Many of these things can be listed on a resume or application, and just might be the difference between getting accepted into your program or not!

What services are available for students with disabilities in Post-Secondary Education settings?

Special Education services under IDEA end at graduation (whether at the end of high school, or the end of the 18-22 program). However, students with disabilities may still be able to receive some services in various post-secondary education settings under other laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Thus, post-secondary settings require different documentation and offer different services than public grade schools. 

A great resource for more information on these guidelines is Students with Disabilities Preparing for Post-secondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities from the Department of Education.

Many post-secondary education settings have disability resource centers. Contact them for information about their specific programs and requirements. Below are links to some commonly attended local schools. Additionally, you should ask them these questions.

How do I find the post-secondary education setting that matches me best?

The decision of where to go is often a very emotional and personal. However, choosing the best match can greatly increase a student's chances of success. Some important factors to consider include: size, location, distance from home, extracurricular opportunities, cost and how you will pay, courses offered, and whether you meet the requirements. Here are some tools to help:

  • What Should I Look for in a College? -- Ten questionable reasons and ten better reasons for selecting a college.
  • Research different schools/colleges -- most schools have differences in cost, entrance requirements, programs, timelines, etc. You have to know the difference!
  • Go on a campus tour! This is a great way to get a feel for the school and really find out what they have to offer.
    • Check out the Campus Visit Guide from bigfuture.collegeboard.org -- includes information about why to visit, how to clan before you go, a checklist of things to do while you are there, and a scorecard to rate your visit!
    • If you can't do a visit in person, check out this Virtual Campus Tour and look at all the things the school has to offer.
    • Talk to someone at the Disability Resource Center and ask these questions. This step is critical because it helps you to have a general idea about how your disability will be accommodated. 

How do I pay for my post-secondary education?

That is a great question that students with and without disabilities wonder! Essentially the options are the same for everyone. Here are some ideas:

  • Scholarships. This is an award of money to be used specifically for schooling. The good news is, you don't have to pay it back! Some scholarships are based on academics and merits, but others are based on various things like where your parents work, being a woman, being a high school senior, and other types of grouping. The best thing you can do is start looking. You can even apply for and receive multiple scholarships!

    • Talk to the counselors at your high school. They have a list of potential scholarships and can help you find the ones that match.
    • Check out this information about scholarships from the Department of Education.
    • Each college website has scholarship information. Search their site!
       
  • Student Loans. This is an option you have to pay back, but typically not until you graduate and have a job. There are a number of sources for these loans.

  • Ask for help from family. They may be willing to help fund your plans with a deal that you do something for them. Check with extended family too!

  • Pay for it by yourself. This will likely require a job, but that is okay! Working for things is how we get places in life. See our Employment page for help!