IEP versus College Accommodations: Debunking the Myths


This article originally appeared in the September 2022 edition of Inside Equal Access.  
Written by:  

Darcy McBride
Darcy McBride
James Trombka
James Trombka




*IEP= Individualized Education Plan. What’s an IEP? 

“I hated my IEP in high school.”
“I just want a fresh start.”
“I don’t want my professors to know all that about me.”

Coming into college, these might be some of the thoughts running through your mind. The transition to college and change in general is stressful enough without having to worry about your IEP trailing behind you!

You may come to Kent State carrying the baggage of past fears, shortcomings, and failures that were associated with your high school accommodation process. You may not know where to start or wonder if it is even worth going through such a process again. Thankfully, the process of acquiring accommodations at the college level is very different from high school and more personalized to address what you actually need. 

What’s the difference? 
fake newsMYTH: It’s the same as it’s always been. “IEPs, accommodations, modifications, embarrassing meetings…  I already know all this.”


verifiedAccommodations at the college level are under a different set of legal guidelines than the programs in place for K-12 students. Accommodations at the high school level are geared towards creating a separate plan with goals and objectives built in. Accommodations at the college level are focused on creating equal access and equity among students. They are set in place to remove barriers that would hinder students from learning and living their everyday life. Modifications are different too.  High schools have the ability to change, or modify, the nature of a course.  For example, a modification to a multiple choice test may be to take away two of the four choices, leaving the student with two possible responses. However, college accommodations are not intended, or able, to modify the nature of the course nor are they able to alter course outcomes.  Essentially, college accommodations ADD something to the student’s experience in an effort to lessen the barrier created by a disability.

Getting Accommodations
fake newsMYTH: Your high school sent your college a copy of your IEP or 504 and all of its accommodations and modifications. And all of it will magically transfer and immediately apply.  “I’m sure my high school told KSU people stuff.”

verifiedNice try. You’re an adult now. Starting the process is on you! At Kent State, you start at Student Accessibility Services. And this is an easy suggestion to make because Kent State’s SAS offices are full of awesome people who want you to succeed!

The process to apply is simple. All you need to do is: 

  1. Complete an application to connect with SAS.
  2. Upload documentation of your disability in your application. Your documentation can be your IEP, 504 Plan, a doctor’s note, or a copy of our  Disability Documentation Form that has been completed by a provider licensed to treat your condition. Please note, any physical or mental diagnosis that substantially impacts your ability to be a college student can be considered a disability. 
  3. Once your application is received, an Access Consultant will reach out to schedule a Welcome Meeting.  A Welcome Meeting is a time for the Access Consultant and youto discuss the disability related challenges you face and determine which, if any, accommodations are appropriate.  You  will also be given information about how to let your professors know which accommodations you have through your Course Accessibility Letters. 

Course Accessibility Letters (CALs)
fake newsMYTH: My professors will know detailed information about my disabilities like my high school teachers did. “I hate it that my college professors will know all my stuff since kindergarten.”

verifiedYour professors will only know what you tell them. Once you’re in with SAS, you have to be laser focused on things called Course Accessibility Letters (CALs). Unlike IEPs, CALs only contain a list of a student’s approved accommodations; information regarding disabilities, symptoms, and diagnoses are NOT included. You are, of course, welcome to share this information with your professors, but are not required to do so. 

You will need to request your letters in Access KSU. Once requested, SAS will email them out, one to you and one to your professor, for EACH COURSE you have an accommodation for. Remember that you can only start using your accommodations once your letters have been sent out. This is the only type of renewal you’ll need to do each semester for your accommodations.

What if My Needs Change?
fake newsMYTH: I can’t change my accommodations once they have been approved. “Knowing my life, I’ll get part of the way through the semester and everything will fall apart and I’m stuck with what I agreed to.”

verifiedThere are a lot of things about any change in life that are unexpected.  The same is true for accommodations and disabilities.  If you find after your Welcome Meeting that something changes with your disability or there’s a barrier that you did not expect, reach out to an Access Consultant to discuss your concerns.  If appropriate, there may be an additional accommodation that could be put into place, or they may be able to direct you to a campus support service (like tutoring or professor office hours) that could help relieve the issue.

Reach out to SAS!
Though you may have hated the IEP/504 process in high school as you felt like you had no say in your accommodations or felt singled out, WE HEAR YOU!  Your voice is at the forefront of your connection process with SAS.   With the guidance, knowledge, and support of an Access Consultant, you will work together to find accommodations that will decrease barriers.  You can choose when and how to use your accommodations, so you will never be singled out. Finally, Access Consultants carefully protect your privacy by never disclosing your disability to professors.  

If you have questions about this or any accommodation, please contact the SAS office at your respective campus.
    -Kent, 330-672-3391.
     You can also schedule a faculty consultation appointment to discuss your specific situation with an SAS Access Consultant.  
    -Regional campuses: Your regional SAS coordinator.

Want to hear a student’s first-hand experience? Check out Olivia’s Story! She just finished five years as a Kent State SAS student and has some great advice.

POSTED: Friday, September 2, 2022 05:04 PM
UPDATED: Saturday, June 22, 2024 12:17 PM
Haifa Alsaab