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 both changes from HS to college and effective ways of supporting your students.

Differences in Service

High School


Education is a right and must be provided in an appropriate environment Education is not a right; students must meet the same admissions criteria as students without disabilities
The school system is responsible for identifying a student’s disability Students must self-identify in order to obtain services and accommodations
Individualized Education Plans, IEPs, are in place to discuss the student’s progress No annual review or IEP is held; students are responsible for monitoring their own progress
Many schools provide educational and psychological testing free of charge Once accepted to the college, the student must provide appropriate documentation of the disability
Course modifications are made in order to facilitate student success 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 through the Disability Services office 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 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 course requirements.
  • Professors have different teaching styles; it is imperative for students to understand their own learning style and to adjust as needed.
  • Confidentiality: If the student is over 18, college staff cannot talk with parents or guardians about the student’s academic activities unless given authorization by the student.

Parent/Family Member Roles

  • What does your student need?  If additional support outside of Mac is needed (additional tutoring, counseling) determine where outside of Mac that support can be provided.
  • Move from “case manager” to supporter.  Listen and advise, but it’s essential students learn to problem-solve their concerns.
  • Ensure that your student has the appropriate and required documentation for services (see documentation section).
  • Continue to encourage your student towards self-advocacy.   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.
  • Discuss with your student openly their strengths and challenges and what their concerns and/or fears are about accessing resources.  Honor their choices and their journey, even if that means some failure along the way.
  • Encourage your student to connect with others in real life: support groups, activities, faculty or staff connections.  Even students with significant autism-spectrum or social anxiety disorders have options for connection.