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Getting Academic Accommodations at CU Boulder


Applying for and receiving academic accommodations in college can be challenging; the process varies by university and isn’t the same as the 504 plans or IEPs of high school. Here’s what you need to know to access this support at CU Boulder—starting with Disability Services.

What documentation does Disability Services need?

Many families believe a simple conversation about their needs is enough to qualify for and receive accommodations. Another misconception is that a student’s high school plan (504 or IEP) will transition with them into college. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for either of those (very common) assumptions. Regardless of accommodations in high school, students need to apply for accommodations through Disability Services at CU Boulder. 

It’s important to note: you must submit proper documentation to support your request.  Self-reporting a disability to the university isn’t enough to secure accommodations.

The documentation should be current, ideally within the past three years. If you do not have documentation or what you have is not current, schedule an appointment with the appropriate provider as early as possible.

Documentation Accepted:

  • Educational records: Your high school Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan could be used. These documents provide a history of the disability and show which accommodations were recommended and/or in place. 
  • Medical records: These records offer evidence of a diagnosis and its impact and impact on academic performance.
  • Letter from a qualified healthcare professional: This letter should be on official letterhead and include:
    • The professional’s name and title
    • Professional credentials and license number
    • Date of the report
    • A clear statement confirming your diagnosis and the impact of your disability on your education
    • The professional’s signature
  • Neuropsychological or educational evaluation: These evaluations provide in-depth assessments of your specific needs and can be instrumental in determining appropriate accommodations. These are helpful for recent diagnoses.

Important: Not all of these are needed—to learn more, go to CU’s documentation page for additional information. Also, appointments (especially for neuropsychological evaluations can have long waitlists. If possible, start the process early. 

When to Schedule an Appointment with Disability Services:

Schedule an appointment with Disability Services as soon as your student commits to the University of Colorado. Delaying this can increase the risk of accommodations not being in place until after the semester begins. Here are some reasons to act early:

  • Increased demand: Post-pandemic, requests for accommodations have risen significantly, putting a strain on resources and leading to longer wait times.
  • Time for processing: It takes time for Disability Services to review your documentation and develop an accommodation plan.

The Differences in Support Between High School and College

The landscape of support shifts significantly from high school to college. Here’s what you need to know:

  • No case managers: Unlike high school, students won’t necessarily have a dedicated case manager. This means each student is responsible for communicating their needs, scheduling appointments, and advocating for their accommodations.
  • Confidentiality: FERPA regulations protect student privacy. This means that unless you give explicit permission, Disability Services cannot share information about student accommodations with parents.

Steps in Applying for Accommodations at CU

  • Acquire/organize your documentation: Start compiling your educational records, medical records, and any relevant evaluations. If you don’t have recent documentation, schedule appointments with your medical professionals. 
  • Apply for accommodations and submit the appropriate documentation within the form: This quick form will get you in their system and ready to set an appointment with a Disability Services advisor. Before you submit, make sure your documentation is attached
  • Schedule an appointment with Disability Services: Do this as soon as possible to avoid delays. Slots book up quickly!
  • Prepare for your meeting: Think about the specific challenges you anticipate and the accommodations that have been helpful for you in the past. Have documentation ready to support any accommodations you are interested in receiving.
  • Meet with disability services: Present your case, explaining the challenges and the accommodations required. Being honest and detailed will give you the best chance of getting the accommodations you need. 
  • Wait for your accommodations letter: After your meeting, Disability Services will review your request and documentation. They will notify you once a decision has been made and provide an official accommodations letter outlining the approved accommodations.

If Accommodations are Awarded—Adjusting to Self-Advocacy:

If your accommodations are granted, the next challenge is to transition to self-advocacy. Here’s what we mean by that:

  • First, take the time to understand your accommodations. Familiarize yourself with the specific accommodations you received and how they can support your learning. Also, know how to advocate for and access them.
  • Communicate proactively. Don’t wait for problems to arise. Contact your professors before the semester begins—or whenever you get their emails—to discuss your accommodations and how they may impact your learning in their course. 
  • Attend professor and TA office hours. Go to office hours early in the semester to discuss your accommodations and introduce yourself to your professors/TAs. Do this before the stress of the semester really kicks in—professors pay attention to who comes to office hours and who’s advocating for themselves.

Need Additional Support? Untapped Learning Can Help!

Applying for accommodations is only the first step. Navigating college life requires ongoing coaching and support. If your student needs assistance managing their accommodations, communicating with professors, or developing self-advocacy skills, Untapped Learning can help. 

With over 30 CU graduates on our team, we understand the journey and can provide personalized guidance and support. 

Contact Untapped Learning today to learn more about how we can support your student’s success at CU Boulder!

For More:

Disability Verification Form

Documentation Guidelines | Disability Services | University of Colorado Boulder

CU Boulder | Executive Function Coaching | Untapped Learning

Schedule an Appointment | Disability Services | University of Colorado Boulder

Covid-19’s Impact on Learning Accommodations

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