Contact us

Our office hours are 9 am to 4 pm,
Monday to Friday

Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL)
1250 Maggie Benston Centre
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby BC V5A 1S6
Phone: 778.782.3112
Secure Fax: 778.782.4384

Visit our Accessibility Information Page to find detailed information about our office and its accessibility considerations.

Successful Transition

Student Success

Key Differences Between High School and University

The CAL is available to discuss the important differences between high school and post-secondary education with respect to services for students with disabilities. Understanding these differences will help to ensure a smooth transition period.

First and foremost, high school is a teaching environment in which you acquire facts and skills. In contrast, university is a learning environment in which you are responsible for managing your own learning needs and goals and applying what you have learned without necessarily being told how to do so.

High School

In high school, teachers or other school personnel are responsible for identifying students who were in need of disability services, providing assessments and developing Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) based on these assessments. These plans may include a modified curriculum, specialized instruction, tutoring, academic accommodations and services of a personal nature. In high school, students’ time is usually structured by others and they can count on parents and teachers to remind them of responsibilities and provide guidance in setting priorities.


In contrast, post-secondary education requires students with disabilities to be much more self-directed in their education and with regards to gaining access to the accommodations they need. Students are required to monitor their own progress and communicate their needs to appropriate personnel. While the emphasis in Grades K-12 is on ensuring students’ success, post-secondary disability services are focused on 'levelling the playing field' for students with disabilities so that they have equal educational opportunities and access. In university, students manage their own time and are responsible for setting priorities and meeting their own learning needs.

Post-secondary institutions review specific documentation that must be supplied by the student, and determine disability-related needs for reasonable academic accommodations on a case-by-case basis. Students may not receive all the academic accommodations they had in high school or at another educational institution.

A Successful Transition to University

While the transition to university can be intimidating, students with disabilities should expect to use accommodations approved by the CAL to diminish or remove access barriers to educational opportunities.  Accommodations are designed to ‘level the playing field,’ not to ensure success – this is entirely up to you. All students should expect to study at least 2-3 hours per week for each credit hour of class, be responsible for maintaining their own schedule and attendance, develop/utilize effective organizational and time management strategies, and use good communication skills with other students, faculty and staff. You are encouraged to work closely with the CAL and other campus resources to attain satisfactory academic progress.