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ClemsonLIFE™ at Clemson University

The ClemsonLIFE program at Clemson University offers a collegiate experience that prepares young men and women with intellectual disabilities for competitive employment and independent living through a combination of academic coursework and career exploration. The program is designed for students who desire a post-secondary experience on a college campus. Our program incorporates functional academics, independent living, employment and social/leisure skills in a public university setting with the goal of producing self-sufficient young adults.

  • About the Program

    The ClemsonLIFE Program offers a two-year Basic Program that incorporates functional academics, independent living, employment, social/leisure skills, and health/wellness skills in a public university setting with the goal of producing self-sufficient young adults. Additionally, the ClemsonLIFE Program offers a two-year Advanced Program for students that have demonstrated the ability to safely live independently, sustain employment, and socially integrate during the Basic Program. The Advanced Program progresses with an emphasis on workplace experience, community integration, and independent living with transitionally reduced supports. Students who successfully complete the Basic or Advanced program will receive a corresponding certificate of post-secondary education.

    We Believe

    • Young adults go through a similar development process that requires certain activities, experience and support.
    • Young adults must develop skills and an understanding about themselves and the world around them in order to fully participate in society and to become successful, contributing adults.
    • Higher education is a vehicle for self-empowerment and access to social networks, employment, and independence.
    • Group membership provides essential motivation and support for learning and participation in community life.

    ClemsonLIFE Courses

    • Functional Mathematics, Banking and Budgeting
    • Functional Literacy
    • Independent Living Skills
    • Social Skills
    • Self Advocacy and Safety
    • Health and Wellness
    • Employment Skills
    • Supervised Job Placement/Internship

    Independent Living

    • Students live in four bedroom apartments on campus
    • Supervision is provided by an on-site Independent Living Assistant (ILA) in each student apartment
    • Independent living skills are taught in class, at the apartments, and then reinforced by ILAs
    • Students are taught how to utilize public transportation
    • Time management, prioritizing, and scheduling


    • Counselors assist students and resident assistants with independent living skills
    • Weekly group counseling sessions with students
    • Individual counseling session available, upon student request


    • Job placements (on and off campus) with on-site supervision
    • Weekly jobsite performance evaluations
    • Classroom instruction on employment skills
    • Employment portfolio development: Each student will develop an electronic employment portfolio to present to prospective employers upon completion of the program. This portfolio will give a more complete picture of what the student is capable of doing in addition to a paper resume. The portfolio will contain a cover letter, resume, letters of recommendation, Sample W-2, Sample I-9 and Sample Application.


    • Enrollment in Clemson University leisure skills course
    • Involvement in various campus student organizations
    • Community involvement
    • Interaction with Clemson University students from all across campus
    • Mentor Program

    Health and Wellness

    • Nutrition and cooking classes
    • Personal fitness training
    • Personal and universal hygiene practices
    • Characteristics of healthy relationships

  • Applications and Admissions
    • Documentation of an intellectual disability, with significant limitations in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, as defined by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD). “Intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills. This disability originates before the age of 18” (AAIDD)
    • Primary disability must be cognitive, not behavioral or emotional
    • Was eligible for IDEA services while in school; has an IEP
    • Has the ability to independently self-administer and manage medication, specialized dietary, and/or medical needs. Note: ClemsonLIFE personnel are not available to manage/administer medication and take no responsibility for specialized diets or medical needs
    • Reading ability is on at least a third-grade level
    • Has basic mathematics understanding; can use a calculator
    • Can utilize technology (cell phone, laptop, etc.) on a basic level
    • Age is between 18-26 years old upon admission to the program
    • Demonstrates independence, motivation, and stability
    • Can function independently for a sustained period of time
    • Likes to be around people; sociable
    • Able to handle changes in routine; can be flexible in fluctuating circumstances
    • Not defiant toward authority; can take direction
    • Demonstrates the ability to accept personal responsibility for actions and maintains respect for self and others
    • Likes to learn
    • Has the potential to be successful in competitive employment situations. We highly recommend employment, or at least volunteer, experience before entering the program.
    • Has the desire and motivation to participate in a college experience
    • Has parents who will support his/her independence

    Application Process

    • Attend a program open house. This one-day program will allow students and families to determine if the ClemsonLIFE program will be a good fit.
    • Complete and submit the 2022-2023 ClemsonLIFE Application for Admission and required documentation by December 10, 2021.
    • Select payment portal tab and pay application fee.
    • Eligible applicants may be invited to attend an on-campus interview.
  • Open House

    To learn more about ClemsonLIFE, please join us at our Open House on Saturday, October 16, 2021.

    Open house typically runs from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Open house is a great time to hear from teachers, employment instructors, counselors, resident assistants, current students and families about the program.

    Due to the number of requests we receive for individual visits, we are unfortunately not able to accommodate them. We hope you can join us at one of our upcoming open houses!

    Register Now

  • Daily Schedule

    Classroom Activities

    Monday and Wednesday

    9:00 a.m.  LIFE: Applied Math/Applied Literature
    12:00 p.m. – Lunch
    1:00 p.m. –  Social Skills/Internship
    3:00 p.m. – Fitness Workout at Fike
    4:00 p.m. – Tutoring
    5:00 p.m. – Dinner

    Tuesday and Thursday

    9:00 a.m.  LIFE: Self-Advocacy
    11:00 a.m.  Leisure Skill Class
    12:15 p.m. – Lunch
    1:30 p.m. –  Life Skills/Employment
    4:00 p.m. – Walking Club
    5:00 p.m. – Dinner


    9:00 a.m.  Computers & Technology/Critical Thinking
    12:00 p.m. – Lunch
    1:00 p.m. – Explore Clemson/Internship
    3:30 p.m. – Fitness Workout at Fike

    Friday Afternoon – Sunday Evening
    • Activities, Social, Leisure, and Recreation Events/Outings Planned by Independent Living Assistants.
    • Grocery Shopping at Local Grocery Stores

    Social/Leisure/Recreation Opportunities

    All students attend a Clemson University leisure skills class one to two days per week. They attend a specialized fitness class at Fike Recreation center once a week. Mentors also meet with students on a weekly basis to support and encourage LIFE students.

    • Tailgates and football games on Saturdays
    • Soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball and other sporting events
    • Students are buddies to young children with disabilities at TOP Soccer and Challenger Baseball.
    • Students have the opportunity to tryout for the Special Olympics Swim Team.
    • Campus-wide activities such as movies, bowling, concerts, shows, First Friday parade, homecoming events, etc.
    • Students join and attend university clubs and student organizations functions.
  • Calendar

    The ClemsonLIFE Program follows the University academic calendar, except for University exam weeks.

    Fall 2020

    August 17  Virtual Parent Orientation
    August 19 – Fall Classes Begin
    September 19 – Home Football Game (vs. Citadel)
    September 26 – Virtual Fall Open House
    October 3 – Home Football Game (vs. Virginia)
    October 10 – Home Football Game (vs. Miami)
    October 24–  Home Football Game (vs. Syracuse)
    October 31 – Home Football Game (vs. Boston College)
    November 2-3 – Fall Break
    November 25-27 – Thanksgiving Break
    November 28 – Home Football Game (vs. Pittsburgh)
    December 4 – Last Day of Classes
    December 7-January 5 – Holiday Break

    Spring 2021

    January 6 – Spring Classes Begin
    January 18  MLK Holiday-University Closed (no classes)
    March 6 – Open House
    March 15-19 – Spring Break
    April 23 – Last Day of Classes
    April 24 – Move Out Day and ClemsonLIFE Commencement Ceremony

  • Frequently Asked Questions
    What is the mission of the ClemsonLIFE program?

    ClemsonLIFE (Learning is for Everyone) offers a collegiate experience that prepares young men and women with intellectual disabilities for competitive employment and independent living through a combination of academic coursework and career exploration.

    How does the ClemsonLIFE Program differ from other post-secondary opportunities?

    ClemsonLIFE core principles support the concept that enhancing academic, social, employment, and life skills will better prepare students with disabilities to lead full and productive lives. It is a comprehensive residential college experience designed to raise the expectations and skill levels of the students admitted to the program.

    Who will be teaching the coursework?

    Traditional college courses are taught by Clemson faculty, while functional academics are taught by staff with teacher certification in the area of special education.

    What are admission criteria?

    An applicant must be between the ages of 18 and 26 years old upon admission to the program and have an intellectual disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills. Applicants must have a strong desire to become an independent adult and possess sufficient emotional stability and maturity to successfully participate in the program.

    How many applicants are offered admission each year?

    Twelve full time students will be admitted each year for fall semester.

    Is this a residential or commuter program?

    ClemsonLIFE is a residential program providing instruction and practical experience in independent living skills. All students enrolled in the Basic Program live in on-campus apartments under the supervision on an Independent Living Assistant (ILA). Students in the Advanced Program live in apartments off-campus, and are closely monitored by Transition Specialists who assist them with independent living skills.

    What is the length of the program?

    The Basic Program is designed to be completed in two years. Admittance into the Advanced Program is by invite-only, and provides two additional years of transition support to help facilitate independent living.

    What kind of certificate do students get?

    Students successfully completing the program will receive a certificate of post-secondary education (not an accredited college degree).

    Will there be student mentors?

    Each ClemsonLIFE student is provided an individual peer student mentor drawn from throughout the campus. Mentors assist ClemsonLIFE students both academically and socially, as well as helping them fully integrate into the college community.

    Are there opportunities for scholarships or grants?

    There are a variety of different funding opportunities including FAFSA, Pell grants, South Carolina Commission on Higher Education grants, Vocational Rehabilitation tuition stipends, ClemsonLIFE grant-in-aids, and other private scholarships.

    How do I schedule a campus tour?

    All interested applicants should attend one of our open houses that are held each semester. Sessions are typically offered in March and October. To reserve a space at an open house session, please register online. To schedule a campus tour, please visit the University campus tours page and fill out the registration form.

  • Costs

    ClemsonLIFE Fees (Basic Program)

    ClemsonLIFE is dedicated to providing a structured, high-quality, well-supervised program focused on vocational and independent living for young adults with disabilities. The cost per-semester is listed below for the 2020/2021 school year.

    The below fees are invoiced directly from the ClemsonLIFE program:

    Program Fees

    Covers costs associated with the ClemsonLIFE program (i.e. Operation Costs and Staff/Instructor Salaries) - $12,000

    Student Budget Fees

    Covers apartment groceries, laundry, attendance at sporting or theater events, field trips, etc. - $1,550

    ClemsonLIFE Fees (Advanced Program)

    The below fees are invoiced directly from the ClemsonLIFE program:

    Program Fees

    Covers costs associated with the ClemsonLIFE program (i.e. Operation Costs and Staff/Instructor Salaries) - $7,500

    Student Budget Fees

    Covers apartment groceries, laundry, attendance at sporting or theater events, field trips, etc. - Not applicable
    *Students work in the Clemson Community and with ClemsonLIFE staff to define a budget that reflects the student's monthly income.

    University Fees

    The below fees are paid directly to Clemson University and are included on the University bill:

    Housing (Basic Program)

    Covers rent, utilities, cable and Internet. All students currently live in Douthit Hills apartments on campus. - $4,789

    Academic Fee (All Students)

    Covers tuition fees. All students are required to enroll in a one credit hour Clemson University leisure skills class.

    • $633/credit hour for SC Residents
    • $1,663/credit hour for Non-Residents

    Meal Plan (Required for Basic Program - Optional for Advanced Program)

    Students may select one meal plan of their choice. (The program typically recommends the Block 75) 
    *Only one option will apply.

    • $1,090 Block 75
    • $1,740 Block 175
    • $2,010 Unlimited 100
    • $2,110 Unlimited 200
    • $2,215 Unlimited 300

    Additional Fees (All Students)
    • Campus recreation fee: $90
    • Activity fee: $4
    • Matriculation fee: $5
    • Technology fee: $21
    • Health center fee: $182
    • Internship fee: $200
    • Leisure skills fee: $100

    *All fees reflect the cost for Fall 2020 and are subject to change.

    Financial Aid

    Financial aid is available for students with intellectual disabilities attending post-secondary programs. The following are resources to explore:

    Federal Student Aid: Students may be eligible for Federal Pell Grants receiving up to $5,550 per year. Here are resources on the steps to filling out the FAFSA form and things you need to know before filling out the FAFSA form.

    South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department: Students may be eligible for sponsorships.

    Some independent organizations and groups have offered scholarship money to select students.

    Ruby's Rainbow: Our goal at Ruby's Rainbow is to grant scholarships to adults with Down Syndrome seeking post-secondary education, enrichment or vocational classes who feel that higher education is the right choice for them.

    O’Neill Tabani Enrichment Fund: The mission of the O’Neill Tabani Enrichment Fund is to offer financial assistance to young adults with Down Syndrome – 18 and older – who are continuing to enrich their lives by taking classes or enrolling in post-secondary educational programs.

    CSS Profile: The CSS form is not mandatory, but if you would like to be considered by the ClemsonLIFE Board for a scholarship you will have to fill out the form. Clemson University’s School Code is 5111. Cost for the CSS Profile is $25 for the initial application and one college or program report. Each additional college report is $16. More information can be found on the College Board website.

  • Resources

    College is not for everyone. However, many students desire a college experience, including students with intellectual disabilities. It is for this reason that many colleges and universities now offer Comprehensive Postsecondary Transition Programs, like ClemsonLIFE. These programs offer inclusive social activities; participation in college courses; along with instruction on independent living skills, employment skills, and social skills with the goal of independent living and gainful employment to the greatest extent possible for each student.

    Think College is a great resource for families of students with intellectual disabilities considering college. For a searchable database of Available Comprehensive Postsecondary Transition Programs, see ThinkCollege Database.

    Online Resources

    Other Online Resources


    • Collins, J. C., Ryan, J.B., Katsiyannis, A., Barrett, D. & Yell, M. (2014). Use of portable electronic assistive technology to improve independent job performance of young adults with an intellectual disability. Journal of Special Education Technology, 29(3), 15-30.
    • Hawkins, B.L., Stegall, J.B., Weber, M. & Ryan J.B. (2012). The Influence of a Yoga Exercise Program for Young Adults with Intellectual Disabilities. International Journal of Yoga, 5, 151-156.
    • Hughes, E., Green, J.  & Ryan, J.B. (2011). The use of assistive technology to improve time management skills of a young adult with an intellectual disability. Journal of Special Education Technology, 26(3), 13-20.
  • Our Students


    Frankie Antonelli
    Frankie Antonelli

    Lilly Cantrell
    Lilly Cantrell

    Dalton Cron
    Dalton Cron

    Sunny Meadows
    Sunny Meadows

    Sam Mungo
    Sam Mungo


    Graham Bitzer
    Graham Bitzer

    Blakeley Kress
    Blakeley Kress

    Ashley Mccormick
    Ashley McCormick

    Kendall Montgomery
    Kendall Montgomery

    Emily Parkey Ferguson
    Emily Parkey Ferguson

    Mary Catherine Price
    Mary Catherine Price

    Tanner Smith
    Tanner Smith

    Tyler Trout
    Tyler Trout

    Noah Wynne
    Noah Wynne


    Josh Brown
    Josh Brown

    Anna Chilton
    Anna Chilton

    Kevin Davis
    Kevin Davis

    Patrick Devitt
    Patrick Devitt

    Chris Garcia
    Chris Garcia

    Ellie George
    Ellie George

    Grace Myatt
    Grace Myatt

    Allison Watry
    Allison Watry

    Kalim Wigfall
    Kalim Wigfall


    Alana Spencer
    Alana Spencer

    Alex Eveland
    Alex Eveland

    Anne McGuire
    Anne McGuire

    Bryson Marsh
    Bryson Marsh

    Davian Dean
    Davian Dean

    Jessica Giddens
    Jessica Giddens

    Katherine Jones
    Katherine Jones

    Katie Beck
    Katie Beck

    Kevin Mackey
    Kevin Mackey

    Leah Shelton
    Leah Shelton

    Merideth Farich
    Merideth Farich

    Nicolas Geoffroy
    Nicolas Geoffroy

    JRyan Mosley
    Ryan Mosley

    Zachary Kroeger
    Zachary Kroeger

  • Contact | Faculty | Staff

    General Information

    ClemsonLIFE | 101 Gantt Circle  | Suite G-01 | Clemson University | Clemson, SC 29634 | 864-656-0501 |

    Faculty & Staff

    Dr. Joe RyanDr. Joe Ryan | Program Director
    Sue Stanzione Distinguished Professorship for ClemsonLIFE

    Erica WaltersErica Walters | Program Manager

    Courtney DukesCourtney Dukes | Freshman Instructor

    Misty SwineyMisty Swiney | Sophomore Instructor

    davis-kayla.jpgKayla Davis | Junior Instructor

    zogran-kim1.jpgKim Kempf | Instructor

    clinton-nikki.jpgJanice Garrett | Graduate Assistant/Mental Health Counselor

    mcalpine-sarah.jpgSarah McAlpine | Job Coach

    Susan YaridSusan Yarid | Program Assistant

     Lisa WilsonLisa Wilson | Teaching Assistant

    stierle-jordan.jpgJordan Stierle | Ph.D. Student – Special Education

    clinton-nikki.jpgZach Calvert | Independent Living Assistant

    clinton-nikki.jpgHailey Carroll | Independent Living Assistant

    chrisley-sarah-grace.jpgSarah Grace Chrisley | Independent Living Assistant

    clinton-nikki.jpgDerek Gathercole | Independent Living Assistant

    hawkins-matthew.jpgMatthew Hawkins | Independent Living Assistant

    clinton-nikki.jpgElya Hueble | Independent Living Assistant

    meara-carlie.jpgCarlie Meara | Independent Living Assistant

Check Out The Fun

ClemsonLIFE Visits Clemson Football

ClemsonLIFE Goes Greek

ClemsonLIFE Experiences

ClemsonLIFE Move-In Day

College of Education "Best In Class"
College of Education "Best In Class" | 101 Gantt Circle