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Next Steps Summer Institute (NSSI)

Next Steps Summer Institute will not be held in 2021 due to COVID-19. We apologize for any inconvenience and look forward to hosting NSSI again in 2022.


Next Steps at Vanderbilt Summer Institute (NSSI) is an inclusive higher education (IHE) preparatory experience for rising high school juniors (17+ years old), seniors, and young adults with intellectual disability up to the age of 25.

With more and more IHE programs available around the country, a question arises about whether students and families have a good understanding of what a college program will entail for them: What do they expect about fully engaging on a college campus? How do they begin planning for a full-time college experience? Is their son/daughter ready? Since 2010, the Next Steps at Vanderbilt program has sought to orient students and families to these new programs by providing students with a one-week, experiential, summer college program. NSSI aims to expose young adults with intellectual disability to the main tenants of IHE opportunities. It also serves as an orientation for the incoming first-year students of the Next Steps at Vanderbilt 4-year certificate program.

Feedback received from all stakeholders is testimony to the value of NSSI. Participating students and their families speak with a deeper level of trust and understanding about what they can expect in an IHE program. Next Steps at Vanderbilt staff members report that they could not imagine beginning the academic year without this orientation week that allows them to get to know their new students.

As is the case for all of higher education, enrolling in an IHE program on a college or university campus involves many opportunities, risks, and challenges. Educating potential students and families on what to expect when attending this type of program greatly reduces the risks, enriches the opportunities, and provides all stakeholders with many planning tools.

For Prospective Counselors:

The responsibilities tasked to counselors greatly enhance one’s skills for an array of professions. Previous counselors have come from various backgrounds and disciplines (e.g., Special Education, Clinical Psychology, Nursing, Human Development). Many are current Vanderbilt students (undergraduate or graduate level) or recently graduated. Counselor training and support is provided by the Next Steps staff.


Frequently Asked Questions About the Next Steps at Vanderbilt Summer Institute

NSSI Sample Schedule


Questions? Interested in Learning More?

Contact John Cayton at or (615) 875-8090.