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Unlocking Success: Why Registering with Disability Services in College Matters

Updated: May 1

Did you know that only around one-third of college students with disabilities take advantage of the support offered by their college's disability services office? This means that many students who could benefit from accommodations might not be getting the help they need.

Overwhelmed female student

By law, U.S. colleges and universities are required to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure education is accessible for students with disabilities. These accommodations are tailored to each student's specific needs and can include extended test time, note-taking assistance, priority registration, access to assistive technology, and more.

Having access to these supports can make a significant difference in a student's success in college. However, in order to receive them, students must register with the disability services office and request these accommodations.

Why should students register with disability services?

There are a few reasons why students should register with disability services, even if they don't think they need accommodations right away.

letter tiles spelling out ask for help

  • Students may change their mind. It's quite common for students to underestimate their needs at the beginning of college. They might think they can handle everything on their own, but as the workload increases, they may realize that a little extra help can go a long way.

  • Using approved accommodations is optional: If a student is approved for extended test time, for example, they aren't obligated to use it every time. However, if they don't have the accommodation in place, they won't have the option to use it if they need it.

  • College is different from high school. Unlike high school, where teachers and administrators are more attuned to students' needs, in college, students are more responsible for advocating for themselves. This means being proactive about registering for accommodations and communicating their needs to professors.

  • Privacy is a priority: Students shouldn't worry about being labeled or having their disability disclosed to others. Only those who need to know about the accommodations, such as professors, will be informed, and they do not have the right to know a student’s specific disability.

When should students register with disability services?

The best time to register with disability services is as early as possible, as early as right after submitting the deposit and enrolling in the college.This allows the office ample time to process the request and ensure everything is in place before the semester starts. Of course, a student can still register at any time during their college education. Just know that accommodations are not retroactive and will only be available after being approved. The colleges need processing time, so registering for extra time on an exam the week before it is scheduled is not likely to be approved and processed in time.

What can parents do to help?

Parents can play a supportive role in helping their student register with disability services. Here are a few things parents can do:

  • Encourage early registration: Emphasize the importance of registering as soon as possible.

  • Assist with documentation: Help your student gather any necessary documents, such as a letter from a doctor or therapist, or a copy of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan.

  • Offer encouragement and support:Registering with disability services can be a daunting task, so be there to offer your student reassurance and assistance.

College can be a demanding time for all students, but it can be especially challenging for those with disabilities. By registering with disability services and accessing the accommodations they need, students can set themselves up for success. Remember, you're not alone in this journey – your college's disability services office is there to help pave the way for your student's academic achievements.


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