Expectations: How College Differs

Expectations: How College Differs —
Making the Transition from High School a Success

Both college and the services available to you differ in important ways from what you may be accustomed to in High School. How you obtain services, apply for them, and the responsibility placed on you may well be different than what you are familiar with.  Please read all the sections below as well as the excellent booklet provided by the U.S. Department of Education available in  English or Spanish from our office: "Students with Disabilities Preparing for Post-secondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities."  If you are entering college for the first time, it is important to understand what to expect from the Student Disability Resource Center, other student services offices, as well as faculty, staff, and yourself. 

Important Differences


  • What are the differences?

    As you may know, the laws applying to students with disabilities at the college level are different from those applying to grades K-12. In high school, you received services under IDEA or Section 504; these were typically spelled out in an IEP or 504 Plan. At the University, the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as Section 504, protect you from discrimination based on your disability.

    Services at the University level are provided to give you equitable access to an education rather than to guarantee that you will learn or achieve success. While we provide many services which will help you to compensate for the effects of your disability, the University does not change its academic requirements to accommodate itself to you as your high school may have done.

    Also, you may or may not receive the same services provided to you in high school. You will be responsible for completing all of the same work as any other student, but perhaps in a way that works better for you. The process for obtaining accommodations for your disability will differ too.

  • Who's responsible?

    A most important difference is that you--not your parents, teachers or the University--are responsible for identifying yourself as a student with a disability, requesting services, making best use of those services--or even choosing not to use services. Your parents are not involved in this process, unless you specifically request this in writing.

    In addition to obtaining services, you will be responsible for scheduling your classes, making sure that assignments are completed, and meeting with instructors and teaching assistants when necessary. SDRC Staff and other student services departments, especially the Student Affairs area of your College and major, can be helpful while you are learning to navigate the University system.

  • College costs

    Another difference is that college costs, including fees, books and room and board are the responsibility of you or your family. Financial aid, in the form of grants, loans or Work Study, may be available. In some cases, the State Department of Rehabilitation may provide financial assistance. Contact the campus Financial Aid office or local department of rehabilitation office, well in advance of attending college.

  • Personal services

    The University does not provide personal services or individually prescribed devices as your high school may have done. Personal services include assistance with bathing, grooming, food preparation, housekeeping, orientation and mobility, and the like. You or your family will be responsible for obtaining and funding these services, perhaps with assistance from the County Department of Social Services. Individually prescribed devices include hearing aids, glasses, braces, wheelchairs, other mobility devices, etc. Your family's health insurance or the State Department of Rehabilitation may be able to help pay these expenses.

  • How will I obtain services at UC Riverside

    When you return your Statement of Intent To Register (SIR) or if you are a continuing student, no later than two weeks before you will need services, please contact the SDRC, (951) 827-3861.

    You will be asked to complete a pre-registration form on R'Ability, to provide applicable documentation for your disability, and meet with a disability specialist. See the  Checklist for Requesting Services.

    SDRC staff will review your documentation and may need to ask you for additional information in order to assure that you will receive appropriate services. 

    After accommodations are approved, you will be referred to other SDRC staff member(s) who will help you with arrangements for services.

  • Be prepared

    You will probably find your first few weeks at college confusing and stressful. Your classmates will feel the same way--even without the added burden of arranging for services and adjusting to life with a disability in this new environment. Soon, however, all of this will seem comfortable, and you will find yourself the expert, perhaps helping someone else.

  • Additional resources

    The brochure "Students with Disabilities Preparing for Post-secondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities" (Revised September, 2011) is available online or from the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (order information below).

    To order copies from the U.S. Department of Education:
    You may send an e-mail request to: edpubs@edpubs.ed.gov
    Or, call toll-free: (800) 872-5327, or (877) 576-7734 (TTY)
    Or order online: ed.gov/edpubs/ 
    Or view the brochure online at: ed.gov/ocr/transition.html

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