Making the transition from high school to college will be one of the biggest changes you will experience. It may feel overwhelming with new students sometimes struggling to make this transition smoothly. During the transition, it is important for you to keep in mind the differences between what you have experienced with high school and what to look forward to with post-secondary education.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), protects the rights of students by mandating schools to identify the student’s disability and accommodate their individual academic needs. This special education law protects the rights of children with disabilities from birth through the age of twenty-one.

Accommodations received in high school are not required to be offered at the same level of support in a post-secondary setting.  Students enrolled in post-secondary education are covered by Section 504 and the Americans with Disability Act Amendment Act of 2008.

Below you can find additional differences between high school and college, so you know how to better prepare for the transition.

High School

Fewer social distractions

Most classes meet everyday

Lesser workload, slower pace and less stress

Fewer responsibilities

Career decisions are not expected

Students are assisted with decisions or decisions are made for them

Attendance is well monitored as well as progress in the class

Grades can be based on a variety of activities

Instructors more readily prepare students for exams

Help is readily available, students do not need to seek it out

Tasks are more structured, step by step instructions given

High school teaches you mostly from the textbook

You may receive more one on one support in high school

Teachers help you to review and go over new material for several classes


More social distractions

Classes meet less often

Increased workload, faster pace and more stress

More independent living skills

Students are expected to know what they want to do with their lives

Increased number of decision, students are expected to be able to make important decisions

Attendance and progress may not be monitored. Time management and organizational skills are critical

Grades could be based on fewer tasks or larger projects

Exam questions may be more difficult to predict, and you will need to demonstrate your understanding of the material

Students must independently seek help using effective communication skills

Tasks are less structured and students are held responsible for developing a method to completed tasks

College professors expect you to understand the text, and teach course material in many other different ways

College professors are often too busy to provide one on one support

College requires you to learn most material independently, with a greater amount of reading and studying required