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Eligibility Requirements

We are excited about your interest in Next Steps at Vanderbilt! We use a holistic and thoughtful review process to assemble an excited and diverse class of incoming students each year who we think will flourish in our program.

Information about the students we serve:

  • We are a comprehensive transition program designed to serve students with intellectual disability. Although applicants may have other disability diagnoses (e.g., autism, functional delay), our emphasis is on students who also have cognitive impairments. [See additional information below.]
  • We accept students who are between the ages of 18 and 26, transfer students are eligible to enter through the age of 28.
  • We serve students with disabilities who have successfully completed high school, and have received a high school diploma (e.g., special education diploma, occupational diploma, standard diploma). Students would have received or been eligible for services under IDEA.
  • We enroll students who express a strong personal desire to attend college.


We prioritize applicants who:

    • Are excited to become better prepared for the world of work and a future career.
    • Demonstrate both the need and a desire for greater independence.
    • Can learn to navigate the college campus on their own.
    • Can communicate reliably with others and exhibit socially responsible behavior on campus.
    • Have satisfactory record of school attendance from their previous school.
    • Additional requirements:
      • Due to our collaboration with the TN Dept. of Rehabilitation Services, all Next Steps students must have an open case with VR, if they are eligible. Accepted students and their families will agree to this condition in order to retain their eligibility for Next Steps.
      • Selected applicants must be able to attend the Next Steps at Vanderbilt Summer Institute (June 2022), which serves as part of our orientation. This requirement is waived if they have successfully completed the summer institute during a previous year. Final acceptance into Next Steps is conditional upon the successful completion of the Next Steps Summer Institute.

Click here for a screening tool to help you determine:   Am I Eligible for Admissions to Vanderbilt through Next Steps at Vanderbilt?


All enrolled students must:

  • Have health insurance (Medicaid, Medicare, private)
  • Provide their own transportation to and from campus
  • Have own cell phone upon entering the program to aid in maintaining contact with Next Steps at Vanderbilt staff
  • Have a reliable laptop computer for their daily use when they arrive on campus


Additional Information

  • An intellectual disability can be documented by (a) showing prior eligibility for special education services under IDEA as a student with an intellectual disability, (b) by providing an evaluation and diagnosis of an intellectual disability from a psychologist or other qualified professional, or (c) by having record from a government agency (e.g., Social Security Administration, vocational rehabilitation, school) that identifies the intellectual disability.
  • Next Steps at Vanderbilt uses the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities definition of Intellectual Disability- Intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 18.  Scores on cognitive and adaptive behavior assessments must both be 75 or below.