Asking for Accommodations in College When You Have Anxiety

Health Writer

In elementary and high school, students with disabilities, including anxiety disorders, may be eligible for services, accommodations and modifications under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In college, the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as Section 504 govern whether a student is eligible for certain services. As in lower grades, a student must meet eligibility requirements to receive accommodations.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides that all people have access to electronic and information technology provided by the Federal government.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects students with disabilities from discrimination and mandates access and opportunity for all students.

Eligibility for Accommodations

As with all disabilities, it is the student's responsibility to request accommodations and prove a disability to receive accommodations. This is different than in elementary and high school where it was the school's responsibility to identify students with disabilities.

The ADA lists a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual."

In order to be considered for accommodations, colleges require documentation. A student should be prepared with:

  • Copies of the initial evaluation when anxiety was first diagnosed

  • A current psychiatric update (current usually denotes within the past 12 months)

  • Description of the impact the disability has on the ability to complete college courses

  • Documentation to show the student has the ability to complete college course work with accommodations

  • Request for specific accommodations and reasons why each accommodation is needed

It should be noted that having an IEP or Section 504 in high school does not automatically qualify a student for services and accommodations in college.

Where to Ask for Accommodations

All colleges, regardless of whether public or private, should have a disability support office. This office handles all requests for accommodations and helps students coordinate with professors to receive the accommodation (although it is the student's responsibility to speak directly with a professor.)

Each college has different policies, procedures and forms to be completed when requesting accommodations. You should speak directly to the disability support office of your college to find out their procedures. Not following proper procedures can make you ineligible to receive accommodations.

Examples of Accommodations

Although accommodations are specific to the individual needs of the student, the following is a list of accommodations commonly requested:

  • Seating near the exit in case you need to leave the classroom during a lesson
  • Additional time for exams
  • Taking exams in a quiet location
  • Assistance on time management and organization
  • Ability to tape record lessons and lectures

Accommodations become effective on the date that a student makes the request. They are not retroactive. That means that if you are having trouble in a class, and you have not requested accommodations until half way through the semester, any failing grades prior to your request cannot be changed. If you believe you may need accommodations to be successful in college, you should talk with the disabilities support office as soon as possible and begin the process.

Additional Resources:

Anxiety in College

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Your Anxiety


"Documentation Guidelines for Students with Psychiatric Disorders" Date Unknown, Author Unknown, College Board

"Exceptional Students and Disability Information: Generalized Anxiety", 2007, Author Unknown, National Association of Special Education Teachers

"Guide to Reasonable Accommodations" Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Florida State University

"Psychiatric Disabilities", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, California Judicial Branch