Date of Award


Degree Name

Curriculum and Instruction


College of Education and Professional Development

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Elizabeth Campbell, Ph. D., Committee Chairperson

Second Advisor

L. Eric Lassiter, Ph. D.

Third Advisor

Lori Howard, Ph. D.

Fourth Advisor

Douglas Sturgeon, Ph. D.


According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2020), the national percentage of first-time, full-time college students who returned to the same campus the following year was 81%. For students with disabilities, retention and graduation statistics were disproportionate to their non-disabled peers. Students with disabilities graduated high school at a rate of 73% in 2018 (NCES, 2020) but completed college programs at a rate of just 38% while their non-disabled peers graduated at a rate of 51% (Sanford et al., 2011). Additionally, students were less likely to be full time students and were less likely to graduate on time (Lee, Rojewski, Gregg, & Jeong, 2014). In order to understand why so many college-bound students with disabilities are failing to complete post-secondary programs or participate in the typical college experience I conducted interviews to explore the experiences of students with disabilities who have transitioned from high school to college. The intent of this qualitative study was to utilize these interviews to explore the experiences of students with disabilities who have made the transition from high school to college and gain insight into how students with disabilities, parents, and Intervention Specialists could better prepare for a successful transition from high school to college, and how colleges might better serve students with disabilities while they are enrolled.

Findings: Interviews with participants revealed two major themes: Challenges and Supports. Interestingly, there was not a consensus among participants about these challenges and supports. Some participants had great difficulty in areas that came easily for others. This aligns with the individualized nature of special education that participants experienced in high school. Data was further organized into five sub-themes; Identifying Disabilities, Needs and Supports, Interacting with Faculty and Staff, Navigating Campus, and Wraparound Services.


Students with disabilities – Education (Higher) – Services for.