Role of Parents

As a parent, you may have questions about your student’s transition to college and his or her access to all that Merrimack offers. We are here to help with that transition.

The transition to college is a journey for both you and your student. You can expect some amazing changes to happen during your student’s college years. The road to self-actualization happens with each step your student takes and with each challenge turned into opportunity.

Accommodations: High School vs. College

There are a number of differences between high school and college that families should be aware of before starting college. The most important thing to know is that in college the students are expected to speak for themselves. That means meeting with staff from accessibility services to discuss your child’s disability and accommodations, talking to their professors when they have a question or a problem, attending appointments and learning to self-advocate across campus.

In college, students with disabilities are expected to learn and show mastery of the information. Unlike some courses in high school, course assignments often cannot be modified, i.e., fewer test questions, assignment extensions, reduction of assignments.

However, students with disabilities can utilize accommodations to support their learning of all the required material. Reasonable accommodations might include things like audio recordings of class discussions, reading an electronic version of a textbook or having more time to finish a test or quiz.

We encourage students to contact us as soon as possible after starting at Merrimack to ensure adequate time to meet and set up a plan. While we will work with students at any point in their college career, accommodations can not be made retroactively.

Some accommodations are more common in high school, such as approved absences and extensions on assignments. However, such accommodations are often not considered to be reasonable accommodations in the college setting.

Because students receive a syllabus at the start of each semester that outlines all expectations and classes meet less frequently, these requests are typically an early-on conversation between the student and the professor. We encourage students to meet with their professor at the beginning of the semester to outline possible needs and to collectively identify any “what-if” plan that may be needed.

Here is a table that highlights some of the key differences between high school and college accommodations:

High School


The Law The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free appropriate public education. The Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees equal rights to individuals with disabilities in higher-education setting, such as Merrimack College.


Teachers may adjust the course material for students with disabilities. Professors often will not change course material, but will provide students with reasonable predetermined accommodations.
Advocacy School districts are responsible for evaluating students’ learning and reporting disabilities to teachers. Students must start the conversation about their disability in order to acquire and utilize reasonable accommodations.
Parent Involvement Parent has access to student records and can advocate for their child. Parent has no access to student records without child’s permission*, and it is up to the student to advocate for himself/ herself (or at least be at the center of the conversation).
Scheduling Classes meet daily, which means that students can have consistent contact with their teachers. Classes meet less frequently, so students will see their instructors less often and must plan ahead to ask for reasonable accommodations.
Extra Help Teachers make sure that students get extra help. Students must schedule time and determine how to get the extra help that they need, including office hours, tutors and/or support staff meetings.
Due Dates Teachers often remind students of assignments and due dates. Professors expect students to read the course syllabus, and they often do not remind students of upcoming due dates.

Table adapted from Kirsten Behling

More Information

For more information on FERPA, please visit the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act website.