Post-Secondary Education

Secondary Transition Post-Secondary Goals

During the transition process the IEP team must identify future goals that will occur after high school graduation in the areas of further education, future employment and independent living, if appropriate.  These goals will be discussed annually during the IEP process and changes made as determined by the team.  Activities, courses of study and measurable annual goals will be determined based on post-secondary goals and present education levels.   

Post-Secondary Goals

During the transition process the student will decide if he/she is interested in pursuing further higher education opportunities once graduating from high school.  Higher education is designed to assist in preparing the student to reach career and employment goals.  Goals can change during the high school years. As the student clarifies interests, recognizes strengths and needs, and evaluates progress through their high school career, secondary goals can be altered to reflect current information and conditions. 

Post-secondary education includes community college, two and four-year colleges/universities, vocational and technical training, apprentice programs, on-the-job training and other forms of preparation.  To prepare for post-secondary education, the student and family should develop a timeline starting as early as ninth grade.  Courses of study need to assist the student prepare for future studies in a higher education setting.  Both skills and entrance requirements need to be considered.  Assistive technology should be discussed. 

Present education levels of the IEP must be based on continuous age appropriate transition assessment that will assist in determining if the student is making progress toward their post-secondary education goal.  Transition assessment tools should be used to gather information that will paint an accurate picture of how the student is doing academically and functionally.  Assessment tools such as Post-Secondary School Survey Preparing for College, the Landmark College's Guide to Assessing College Readiness and the Self–Determination Observation Checklist can provide relevant information to assist the IEP team in determining progress toward the higher education goal.  Assessment data will also drive measurable annual goals and activities that will assist the student in reaching their post-secondary goals. 

To gain an understanding of the difference in public education and higher education review the resources from the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights describing the legal rights and responsibilities that will affect students with disabilities as they transition from high school to institutions of post-secondary education.

Dear Parent Letter

This resource describes differences between the services required to be offered to students with disabilities in the public school and the services required to be offered to students with disabilities by schools and institutions of higher education and vocational training.

New Transition Document for High School Educators

A list of questions and answers and other information designed to inform high school educators about possible challenges that students with disabilities might face when applying for admission to colleges, universities and technical schools. High school educators can assist students with disabilities prepare themselves to be self-advocates, to document their disabilities and to request needed accommodations to do their academic work through the medium of the OCR.

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

This resource provides questions and answers and other information related to student responsibilities in transition between high school and higher education or postsecondary training. Topics include documentation of disabilities, the effect of a disability on a student’s admission process, the timing of a student’s decision to reveal that he or she has a disability and the timing of requests for accommodations needed by the student to complete academic work or vocational training.

Dear Colleague Letter

This resource describes the legal obligations of postsecondary schools toward students with disabilities. 

Further information can be found through Pennsylvania state resources.  The PA Educational Planner will provide relevant information on colleges and guide the student and family through the maze of post-secondary education. 


Transition is a process of planning to help youth develop realistic goals for the future including education, employment and independent living.   Transition planning relates to post-high school goals, but includes the many years of planning and working toward meaningful goals including employment before graduation. The goal of transition planning is to support students in becoming contributing members of society with skills that lead to successful employment and participation in the local community. 

Research shows that employment is an important part of an adult’s life; it provides structure, purpose, self-worth, peer relationships and increased independence.  Over the years employment data for people with disabilities has reflected significantly higher unemployment and underemployment rates then those without disabilities despite rhetoric and dialogue since the first reporting in the 1950’s. 

The federal government has made transition services and employment outcomes a priority for students receiving special education services through the reauthorization of IDEIA 2004 and inclusion of secondary transition requirements. There are many federal and state resources that can help young people plan for the transition from school to employment.

Employment development begins at age 14 and continues to graduation.  It includes career awareness, career exploration, career preparation and career assimilation. Employment opportunities range from competitive employment to facility-based employment including supported and supported team (enclave) employment based on the student’s interests, skills and aptitude.    

To become aware of rights a person with disability has in the workplace The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Accommodations in the workplace should be explored.

While the public school system entitles a student with a disability certain rights and services the ADA is not an entitlement program.  The ADA requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment, unless to do so would cause undue hardship. The Job Accommodations Network is a resource that will assist a student in considering what if any accommodation a student might reasonably request at a jobsite. This is an investigation that should begin during the school years to assist the student in being prepared for the workplace. 

Independent Living

Independent Living is defined as “those skills or tasks that contribute to the successful independent functioning of an individual in adulthood” (Cronin, 1996) in the following domains: leisure/recreation, home maintenance and personal care, and community participation.

Source: Cronin, M. E. (1996). Life skills curricula for students with learning disabilities: A review of the literature. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29, 53‑68. This document was produced under U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs Grant No. H326J050004.

Independent Living includes such things as travel skills, involvement in the community, citizenship, self-advocacy, banking, money management, food preparation, shopping, home care, health care, personal safety and many other activities associated with daily life.  Assessment tools need to be used to document skills and areas of need that may be addressed during the IEP year.  The information provided should reflect student, parent/guardian and teacher results to paint a clear picture of the student’s skill levels.  If the assessment data reflects student competence, the team can provide documentation in the present education levels and include a statement such as “the student and the IEP team have determined that (Student) does not need an independent living goal at this time."  


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