Can Students Without High School IEPs or 504 Plans Get College Accommodations?
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The short answer is “yes.” Most college disability services offices don’t deny accommodations to students simply because they haven’t had an IEP or 504 plan in high school. In fact, there is a good chance that students won’t be asked whether or not they had a plan. (Remember that IEPS and 504 plans aren’t valid at college.) Instead, they will likely be asked to provide recent testing for their learning disability or ADHD.
When college disability services (DS) offices do ask about plans, it is often to get a sense of students’ educational history and use of accommodations that they found helpful. (Remember that colleges aren’t required to provide students with the same accommodations written into their IEPs or 504 plans, though they likely will, depending upon what they were.) However, DS offices are aware that there could be several reasons why students didn’t have an IEP or 504 plan, e.g., they attended a private school, were homeschooled, their parents didn’t want them in special education because they didn’t want their student to feel stigmatized, etc. Many will not penalize students simply because they didn’t have plans. What many will ask for is documentation that shows that students have a disability that substantially limits their functioning (typically, this will be found in fairly recent testing for those with learning disabilities).
By the same token, colleges won’t automatically grant students accommodations simply because they have had an IEP or 504 plan previously. Colleges typically want to see objective evidence that the impact of a disability is significant enough to require accommodation, which is why they often want to see testing and only consider an IEP or 504 plan as supplementary documentation. If they don’t see evidence of that kind of deficit, the presence of an IEP or 504 (to document student’s history of receiving accommodations) may not be persuasive.
To help support students’ need for accommodations, private schools can assign someone to write a letter or some kind of narrative explaining how teachers have informally accommodated students (e.g., allowed him to take tests in a separate room with a proctor) even though these accommodations were not memorialized in a plan. It can be helpful to include comments from teachers (e.g., she often had to come after school to finish her lab because she couldn’t finish during class time). Parents/guardians of homeschooled students who are part of a learning community might wish to ask the teachers working with their student to provide similar observations. If parents or guardians are homeschooling by themselves, they can talk about their student’s work process and how they see their student’s disability affecting him or her in everyday life (e.g., we had to set up a checklist for everyday chores to make sure she completed them thoroughly). These documents can be helpful supplementary documentation to back up the more formal documentation they’ll likely have to submit.
Parents/guardians should be aware that the process where students register with DS to request accommodations doesn’t occur until after they have enrolled at college (typically, right after they pay their enrollment deposit). Colleges cannot ask questions about students’ disability during the admission process (though students can certainly choose to talk about this, if they wish). Keeping this in mind, parents/guardians should not ask the school to take their student off of an IEP or 504 plan based on the mistaken idea that it will affect their college admissions chances.
To learn more, read 7 Steps for Success: High School to College Transition Strategies for Students with Disabilities and review the resources available at https://www.ldadvisory.com/families_students/
[Note – this piece is for informational use only. It should not be considered medical, legal or technical advice, and it is not intended to substitute for advice from a qualified professional.]