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(ies), 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 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 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.

Parent/Family Member 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(ies). 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(ies) 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 Disability Services office of their disability(ies) and the need for accommodations.  Receiving services in high school does not guarantee a student’s eligibility for services in college.