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Special School District of St. Louis County
College Preparation for Teens with Disabilities
The transition to college can be tough for all students, but for teens with disabilities, careful planning and preparation is required for a successful start at college.

There are a lot of differences between high school and college, and students with disabilities need to understand what's expected of them in college, says Marilyn Smith, SSD's effective practice specialist for transition.

Are you suited for college?
The first question for students to consider is whether they are suited for college.

Accountability and self-regulation are critical for success in a four-year, two-year or vocational college setting, she said. They are also important traits for continuing education and adult basic education programs.

"You have to make yourself go to class, and you have to show up on time," Smith said. "No one is monitoring whether you show up."

Students also need to understand their own disabilities, which comes as a challenge for many students.

"In high school, many children don't know they have a disability and don't understand what an IEP means. They don't know how it impacts learning," Smith said.

Understanding your disability and learning style is key to being able to request the appropriate accommodations.

"When they get to college, students have to self-identify," Smith explained. That means the student must be a self-advocate, comfortable approaching his or her instructor to ask for specific classroom accommodations. Colleges can support students with disabilities in a variety of ways, from extra time taking tests to the use of assistive devices, but these accommodations are only available upon the student's request.

Students should also consider what they want to do with their degree, Smith said. Children should be learning about different careers as early as elementary school, and career inventories can be taken in middle and high school to help students explore their options.

"Really pay attention to that transition planning process through the IEP because it is designed to help students identify what their post-secondary education choices are," Smith said. It also provides action steps to help the student prepare for life after high school.

Preparing for college really begins in middle school, Smith said. College-bound middle-schoolers should choose classes that support their educational trajectory into college.

Ideally, Smith said, by the time a college-bound senior graduates high school, everything should be in place to seamlessly enter the next phase of life.

"If you have your eye on the target, the end of where you're headed, then everything you're doing should parallel your path."

Check out all the planning for adult resources available on the SSD website.
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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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