High School to College Transition

Macalester College makes reasonable effort to provide qualified students with disabilities equal access to all the courses, services, programs, job activities, and facilities available through the college.  Although the transition from high school to college is a challenge for any student, college life poses unique challenges for students with disabilities. These students have often received varying levels of support throughout high school, and are now expected to navigate college on their own. College students with disabilities must be able to advocate for their needs, take on responsibility for their learning, and understand the requirements that they must meet in order to be successful at Macalester.

As family members, it is important to understand the challenges that your college student faces with transition and to support them throughout the process. Students must become proficient in understanding their disability, as well as their strengths, interests and preferences.

Differences in Service

High School

  • Education is a right and must be provided in an appropriate environment
  • The school system is responsible for identifying a student’s disability
  • Individualized Education Plans, IEPs, are in place to discuss the student’s progress
  • Many schools provide educational and psychological testing free of charge
  • Course modifications are made in order to facilitate student success


  • Education is not a right; students must meet the same admissions criteria as students without disabilities
  • Students must self-identify in order to obtain services and accommodations
  • No annual review or IEP is held; students are responsible for monitoring their own progress
  • Once accepted to the college, the student must provide appropriate documentation of the disability
  • Fundamental alterations of programs or curricula are NOT required

Transitioning to College

Things to remember

  • Students must advocate for themselves. Requests for accommodations must be made to the Assistant Dean of Students and communicated to the student’s professors
  • College students must structure and plan their own study time. In college, time management, organization and general study skills take on an even greater importance. The Macalester Academic Excellence Center (MAX Center) is available to assist students in gaining these skills
  • Professors and classes may differ regarding attendance requirements, assignments due dates, and exam dates. It is the students’ responsibility to study the syllabus and know the deadlines and other requirements of the class.
  • Professors have different teaching styles; it is imperative for students to understand their own learning style and to adjust as needed
  • If the student is over 18, college staff cannot talk with parents or guardians about the students academic activities unless given prior authorization by the student

Parents or Family Members Roles

  • Work with your student’s high school teachers and support staff to understand the transition process and the differences between services in high school and in college
  • Ensure that your student has the appropriate and required testing that is required to document your student’s disability. Encourage the high school transition team to conduct updated testing prior to the student graduating from high school.
  • Work with your college student to develop self-advocacy skills. Help student to articulate their disability and how it affects them. Your student should be able to talk about their strengths and difficulties in a clear manner and have an in-depth understanding of their needs.
  • Remember that students are responsible for notifying the Assistant Dean of Students, Robin Hart Ruthenbeck, of their disability and the need for accommodations.  Receiving services in high school does not guarantee a student’s eligibility for services in college.

Student Rights

  • Access to courses, programs, services and facilities offered through the college
  • Appropriate and reasonable academic accommodations provided in a timely manner, determined on an individual, as-needed basis.
  • Confidentiality of records and communication except where disclosure is necessary to arrange accommodations, required by law, or authorized by the student.
  • Fair evaluation of academic achievement
  • The right to appeal a decision concerning academic accommodations according to the college's grievance procedures (please refer to the Student Handbook for detailed guidelines).

Student Responsibilities

  • Meet and uphold the college's qualifications and standards as outlined in the Student Handbook and college catalog.
  • Contact the Assistant Dean of Students, Robin Hart Ruthenbeck, to identify as a student with a disability and arrange for appropriate academic accommodations in a timely manner. [Students who need accommodations that take an extensive amount of time to prepare, such as alternate format texts, sign language interpreters, or computer aided real time translation are urged to contact the Associate Dean of Students as soon as courses for the following semester are confirmed.]
  • Inform professors at the beginning of each semester about the need for any necessary and reasonable academic accommodations. The student may also want to discuss how their performance in classes might be affected by a disability.
  • Provide the Assistant Dean of Students with appropriate documentation from a qualified professional, which verifies the diagnosis of the disability, explains how the disability limits participation and, accordingly, the need for specific accommodations.
  • Follow specific procedural guidelines set forth by the Assistant Dean of Students for obtaining and arranging reasonable and appropriate academic accommodations, (e.g. scheduling exams, requesting assistance, arranging accommodations with professors, etc).

College Rights

  • Identify and establish essential functions, abilities, skills, knowledge, and standards for courses, programs, services, and facilities and to evaluate and determine reasonable accommodations on this basis
  • Request current and appropriate documentation from a qualified professional to verify the need for reasonable academic accommodations.
  • Consult with students in making the final determination regarding the selection of effective, appropriate and reasonable academic accommodations. The college reserves the right to make the final decision regarding which accommodations will be provided.
  • Deny a request for accommodations if the documentation does not identify a valid disability, fails to verify the need for the requested accommodations, or if the documentation or request for accommodations are not provided in a timely manner.

The College may also refuse to provide any accommodation that is inappropriate or unreasonable, including any that:

  • Pose a threat to the health and safety of others
  • Constitute a substantial change or alternation to an essential requirement of a course or program
  • Pose undue financial or administrative burden on the college

College Responsibilities

  • Maintain and uphold the academic standards and requirements set forth by the college.
  • Provide information regarding university policies and procedures to students with disabilities and assure availability in accessible formats upon request.
  • Evaluate students' academic achievement based on their abilities.
  • Provide reasonable and appropriate academic accommodations for students with disabilities in a timely manner.
  • Maintain and uphold confidentiality of records and communication concerning students with disabilities except where disclosure is necessary for the accommodations, required by law, or authorized by the student.
  • Provide accommodations free of charge.