Programs of Study

Next Steps at Vanderbilt is committed to integrating students with intellectual disabilities in all aspects of the university and the surrounding community. Students will self-direct the development of their program of study through initial and on-going person-centered planning activities. The program of study is a customized plan for achievement in academic areas, independent livings skills, career development, and university life. Although Next Steps students work toward completing an individual program of study, they must also complete the program to earn a Career and Community Studies certificate on completion.


Each program of study includes up to two Vanderbilt University courses per semester as determined by students' individualized needs. Belonging to the rich Vanderbilt learning community is a perfect place for students to develop and practice critical vocational skills. Some of these skills are punctuality, organizational skills, completion of tasks, revision of work to meet employer expectations, and interpersonal communications skills with faculty and fellow students. Students are held accountable for their learning objectives through individual learning agreements. These learning agreements detail the assignments, academic supports needed, and expectations based on the varying academic skills of students. Learning goals are based on key concepts that are critical to each respective class as noted in the course syllabus and on goals identified for each student in the Next Steps program.

During the first-year and sophomore years, the students enroll in three weekly, foundational Next Steps' Career and Community Studies (CCS) courses that focus on skill development that is essential for living an independent life. Juniors and seniors self-select the topic of their CCS semester-long seminars. Under the supervision of their advisors and with the support of individual tutors, students co-create and complete experiential learning objectives that are designed to build mastery on such topics as civic engagement, requesting accommodations in the workplace, using public transportation and more.

  •  The first year of the program is designed to provide a foundation to college life by offering courses that address living on your own, the fundamentals of career awareness, discovery, and exploration through job shadowing, and topics on personal responsibility and self-motivation when navigating the first year of college.
  • The second year of the program is designed to extend students' skills and knowledge around independent living, including knowledge on students' rights and responsibilities. Individualized on-campus internships will also be offered.
  • The last two years heavily focus on career development and field specialization, including opportunities for off-campus paid internships in a student's field of interest. Courses also cover adopting self-advocacy and leadership skills.

Other helpful links

Program Requirements Chart