Education Options After High School

You have more options than you may realize for continuing your education after high school. It’s all called postsecondary education.

So many ways to continue your education

Your enjoyment of classroom learning or your academic motivation is not a measure of how smart you are or of your potential.  A two- or four-year degree may not be the path for you. Find what fits you. There are lots of ways to learn:

  • Get your WorkReady NH certificate from a community college. It’s a practical tuition-free program.
  • Enter an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeships are formal combinations of classroom and on-the-job training.
  • Enter an occupation-specific training program. These are sometimes called trade schools or vocational schools.
  • The UNH-4U program is a college option for young adults with intellectual disabilities.
  • Start or continue training in a career or technical education program. Start in high school with the NH Career Academy.
  • Check out Project Search, a VR-sponsored work training program for young adults with developmental and physical disabilities.
  • Join a branch of the military: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy.
  • Apply to Job Corps. Job Corp is a no-cost career technical training and education program for low income young people ages 16 through 24. Job Corp training areas
  • Try a gap year program.
  • Work and take adult or continuing education classes.
  • Enroll in a one-year program to work on specific skills.
  • Enter a volunteer program where you travel and work for a year in the US or abroad.
  • Take an online course in a field that interests you. Accredited Schools Online is a website specifically about online postsecondary programs.
  • Start early by earning college credit while still in high school. NH Community Colleges offer several ways high school students can earn college credit.
  • Enroll in a certificate program at a community college.
  • …and more. You have options!

Financial Aid

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (NHCF) is the largest provider of publicly available scholarship dollars in New Hampshire, awarding more than $8 million each year. Scholarships are available for students in certificate, apprenticeship, licensing, and other non-degree programs; Bachelor’s degree candidates; and Associate degree candidates. NHCF scholarships for New Hampshire students. Check out their FAQ for good detail information about deadlines and timing. Applications for the calendar year open each January, deadlines vary.

The Granite Guarantee is a NH financial aid program that bridges the financial gap between a Pell Grant recipient’s total federal and state package and the cost of in-state tuition. You can use it for up to four year’s of tuition at community colleges or four year colleges in the state system.

How to Pay for College (PDF, 2 pages, 2022) is a list of other websites where you can apply for aid and scholarships, from the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies at the University of Maine.

The 2024–25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form will be available by Dec. 31, 2023. Preparing to fill out the 2024-25 FAFSA

Planning Ahead: Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities (PDF, 47 pages, 2015) is a resource paper for students, parents, and others who help students with disabilities to get financial help for post-secondary education. Includes an introduction to financial aid, as well as lists of scholarships by field and some designated for students with specific disabilities.


There’s deciding to go to college, finding a college, and thriving once you get there. This section has resources to help with all that. See College disability/accessibility services in NH and border states to check out what public colleges offer.

College Guidance Network and the NH Department of Education have partnered to offer all NH high school counselors, students and families free access to CGN’s on-demand college and career resources.

Benchmarks for College Success

Keene State College Office for Disability Services has identified five important benchmarks for college success:

  1. Collect proper documentation of disability
  2. Demonstrate self-advocacy skills
  3. Demonstrate responsibility (intrinsic motivation)
  4. Understand the differences between high school and college
  5. Integrate assistive technology into daily life

Benchmarks for College Success (PDF, 28 slides, 2016) is a Powerpoint presentation with more details on each of these benchmarks, especially assistive technology.

Going from high school to college

Summaries of differences between high school and college:

Landmark College in Putney, Vermont, developed a Guide to Assessing College Readiness to help parents and students assess readiness for college work. The six-page guide identifies five success areas: academic skills, self-understanding (metacognition), self-advocacy, executive function, and motivation and confidence. (PDF, 6 pages, 2009) is a good general reference site for students with learning disabilities planning on college. Includes family resources as well as college tips and strategies, college readiness, and accommodations.

Self-advocacy and the Transition to College is an eight-lesson curriculum that addresses the specific needs of students with disabilities who are getting ready for postsecondary education: knowledge of your disability, how it impacts your learning, what accommodations are needed, how to communicate those needs, and your rights and responsibilities under the law. From the Monadnock Center for Successful Transitions at Keene State College. (PDF, 66 pages, 2011)

Community colleges compared to four-year colleges

Here are a few articles about the differences between community and 4-year colleges:

Especially for parents

“An Open Letter to Parents of Students With Disabilities About to Enter College” was written a few years ago by Jane Jarrow from the University of Buffalo Disability Services Office. “Very few children with disabilities can succeed at the college level. On the other hand, students with disabilities survive and thrive on college campuses across the country.” The letter is full of suggestions to help parents and students make the necessary transition from child to college student.

Good story about a college student who was initially reluctant to use available help, and how she eventually flowered: “College Special-Needs Students Face Choice: Seek Help or Go It Alone?”

The ADA, Section 504 & Postsecondary Education handout is one of PACER’s most downloaded and widely distributed documents (PDF, 3 pages, 2015).

Living college life with a disability

Going to College is a website developed by Virginia Commonwealth University with information about living college life with a disability. It’s designed for high school students and has video clips, activities, and resources that to help you get a head start.

Making My Way Through College (PDF, 44 pages, 2015) is for any student interested in a degree or other type of certification at a two-year or four-year college. It was developed by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability (NCWD).

Winning in College: A Guide for Students with Disabilities is an online guide that covers topics such as rights of students with disabilities, required documentation, scholarships, and choosing the right school. It also has good sections about online courses, resources by type of disability, and suggestions for mobile apps and desktop software for assistive technology.

For students with mental health challenges, has created an online resource, College Planning Guide for Students with Mental Health Disorders to help students navigate programs and policies supporting mental health. It covers topics from understanding your rights to potential accommodations, tips on accessing mental health services, and scholarships available specifically to you.

Inclusive postsecondary education college programs

Finding a disability-friendly college

Review the disability services office information on the college’s website. Colleges list their disability services offices in different places on their websites, so try typing “disabilities” in the website’s search box to find the office quickly. Disability services at NH and nearby colleges

list of questions to ask to make sure a college can meet your needs, from Fastweb, a scholarship resource site.

College Navigator is a quick way to compare information about different colleges, from the National Center for Education Statistics. Easy to use and interesting!

College Resources for Students with Disabilities,  from, explains your legal rights and campus resources that can provide you with assistive services and tools. The webpage also lists a number of other websites, apps, and software resources to aid students with specific types of disabilities.

Programs to get ready for college life

The Keene State College Links program is a six-week summer residential pre-college program for first-time college students. The purpose is to expose you to the academic and social expectations of college in a supportive learning community.


Apprenticeships bridge the gap between school and the world of work. An apprenticeship is a way to learn a skilled trade through structured on-the-job training, and get paid while you do so.

Check out these websites to see examples of apprenticeships:

  • Carpentry: United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America – New England Regional Council of Carpenters
  • Electrical: Independent Electrical Contractors apprenticeship programs
  • Plumbing: RotoRooter apprenticeships
  • Ironwork: International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers
  • Culinary arts: American Culinary Federation
  • Childcare: Vermont’s childcare apprenticeship program
  • Aerospace: Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee
  • Heavy equipment operation: International Union of Operating Engineers

New Hampshire apprenticeship resources

National apprenticeship resources

    • from the US Department of Labor. It’s easy to use, with information about apprenticeships in general, a map to search for opportunities, and a big FAQ.
    • Apprenticeships page from the US Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). Lots of resources including an Apprenticeship Toolkit. Snippet from ODEP’s video series featuring apprentices with and without disabilities and their apprenticeship sponsors:

Trade School

Trade or vocational schools are also called career schools, occupation-specific training programs, or job training programs. While a traditional college may require you take classes in a variety of subjects, trade schools focus on training you for a specific skilled career. There are a lot more options than you think!

A career in one of the trades can provide you with a good life and a good living. They often involve a lot of physical, hands-on work while still being very mentally engaging. 43 Trade School Jobs Among the Highest Paying Trades

Be sure to investigate a vocational school carefully to make sure it is reputable. Suggestions to what to look for in a vocational school


In 2014, there were 14 accredited trade schools in New Hampshire.

Real Work Matters lists vocational schools all over the country.

College accommodations and required documentation

Accommodations are tools and methods that give you more options for how you learn something, for example, extra time on tests, audio or e-books, or a notetaker. Accommodations (NOT modifications) can be critical to success at the postsecondary level.

IEPs do not exist in college

Your IEP or 504 Plan does not follow you to college. It may provide useful background information but has no legal standing once you graduate from high school. At the college level you can get accommodations to help you do your work, and then you must meet the same course completion standards as any other student.


To get accommodations you must provide documentation of your disability to the college disability services office. Documentation and the nature of your disability is confidential information and will not be shared with your professors or other college staff. The disability services office will determine if you are eligible for accommodations, then work with you to plan your accommodations. You will be the one to deliver the requests to your professors. The college must provide the agreed accommodations. However, you the student are the one to make the request. It’s not done for you as it was in high school.

Documentation both verifies the existence of a disability and provides a rationale for reasonable accommodations. Requirements vary from college to college; it is critically important to check the specific requirements of your college. Typical requirements are:

  • Documentation is no more than three years old (exceptions made for conditions that are permanent or unchanging)
  • Academic evaluation which explains how your disability impacts your major life activities
  • Medical information which explains how your disability impacts your major life activities, if appropriate
  • A summary of assessments and evaluation instruments used to make the diagnoses
  • A summary of evaluation results
  • Your IEP is not considered sufficient documentation in most places.

Types of accommodations

College Accommodations for Students with Learning Disabilities has good information, particularly for students with learning disabilities.

Getting Accommodations at College: Tools for School when you have a mental health disability. Attractive, user-friendly tipsheet from Transitions RTC in Massachusetts (PDF, 2 pages, 2011).

Disability services at NH and nearby colleges is a page on this website with links to all the disability/accessibility pages for the individual colleges.

“Disability Services” is a 26:58-minute video overview from Higher Education Today. It touches on the nuts and bolts of setting up different kinds of accommodations as well as supporting students who are reluctant to ask for help:

You can change your mind!

High school students contemplating life and work after graduation can be overwhelmed by choices.  It helps to remember a few basics:

  • You can always change your mind. You can even fail. No experience is wasted. In fact, today’s high school graduate will probably have five or more “careers” in the coming decades.
  • A successful work life requires collaboration, communication, and adaptability. These abilities are as important as job-specific skills, and you carry them with you as you change jobs.
  • Your creative and intellectual abilities will only expand as you grow older and your world enlarges. In other words, it gets better.
  • If you aren’t sure what your strengths are and what you might be good at, ask a trusted mentor or teacher for an honest evaluation of your people skills, not just your academic skills. Go with your strengths.

New content 4-30-24