High School to College

Photo of students studying together

Transition from High School to College

Making the transition to college can be both exciting and challenging for students. New responsibilities and expectations will be placed on you, essentially from the first day you are on campus. The Tutoring Center can assist you with the transition by discussing ways to be good self-advocates and independent managers of life's details. As you prepare for this transition, it is important to know about some key differences between high school and college.


High School


Guided by The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, Subpart D and the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)

Guided by The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, Subpart E and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Entitlement - student has a right to a free and appropriate public education

Eligibility - student must be eligible to attend college and needs to meet program eligibility requirements as well

The goal of the accommodation process is to ensure that the student is SUCCESSFUL

The goal of the accommodation process is to ensure that the student has equal ACCESS

Standards may be modified to ensure success

Standards are not fundamentally altered


High School


Public schools are required to identify students with disabilities through free evaluations and the individualized education plan  (IEP)

The student is responsible for contacting the disability office about accommodations

Provide the resources and program placement necessary for student success

Coordinate reasonable accommodations only while deferring to university practices for resources (i.e., tutoring, counseling, etc.)

Parents, counselors, and teachers tend to do most of the advocating and accommodation coordination for students

Students are their own self-advocates and managers of the accommodation process

Parents and teachers tend to play active and lead roles in monitoring attendance, homework, and course progress

Students are expected to take the lead in monitoring attendance in classes, completing homework, and knowing course progress

Parents, teachers, and counselors often are the lead advocates for the student; these advocates keep the student in the loop when necessary

The student is the lead advocate while the disability office advocates for accessibility; the student is expected to keep parents and others in the loop

Classroom Differences and Expectations

High School


Close guidance is provided for student so that they are aware of course and overall graduation requirements

Course requirements vary by course and graduation requirements vary by program with students responsible for understanding both

Class sizes tend to be smaller in number and relatively consistent from one class to another

Class sizes can vary widely from one class to another

Outside of class study time can be minimal and students may not be forced to learn quality study habits as a result

The general rule is that students should study 2-3 hours outside of class for each hour in class in order to achieve passing grades

Tests tend to cover small amounts of material and may be passed through memorization studying

Tests tend to cover larger amounts of material and require a deeper level of understanding, analysis, and application - cramming is likely not a long-term strategy for success

Final course grades often consist of many different grading opportunities (including regular homework assignments); low test or paper grades may be overcome by excellence in other areas

Final course grades often consist of only a few major events (tests, papers, or projects) with few other grading opportunities (homework) available; poor performance on one test or paper will often impact final grade

Good effort often counts and may be considered in a final grade

While effort is important, results matter; academic performance must satisfy the goals and objectives of the course and/or the degree program

Course Instructors

High School


More likely to give routine homework that is regularly graded

More likely to expect students to read and review notes on own outside of class without multiple assignments

May approach the student regarding poor attendance, poor performance, etc.

Have scheduled office hours for students to attend if desired. While professors may contact students it is more likely the student will need to contact the professor about attendance or grades

Present guided information to help students understand what is in the textbook, what is discussed in class, and to give an idea of what may be on the exam

Guided information, such as a detailed study guide prior to each test, may be available

More likely to take time to discuss in class upcoming assignments and responsibilities for completion

More likely to discuss an upcoming assignment one time but then expected that students will use the course syllabus to understand expectations and deadlines

More likely to have open access to the parents

Access to parents is closed unless a confidentiality waiver is in place

Social Environment

High School


Teachers, counselors, and parents tend to monitor and be more in tune with the student's use of time

Student is expected to manage time wisely in order to successfully balance class, work, and social expectations

Teachers, counselors, and parents may have greater voice in the activities a student chooses to participate in

Students are expected to choose wisely among numerous involvement opportunities

Support is centralized by school staff, family, and friends

Support is available but is not centralized; student is expected to create own support network and seek assistance as needed