How to Find College Success for People with ADHD

college students on campus

People with ADHD are less likely than others to attend college.  Lower graduation rates are often attributed to greater psychological difficulties.

Fortunately, trends show an increasing college population of students with ADHD, growing to approximately 2% to 8%.  Another 20% of non-labeled students are approaching its diagnostic criteria.

Compared to peers, people with ADHD face challenges in reaching graduation.  They experience many challenges that seem insurmountable.  With greater levels of maturity, many return to school later in life.

  • Depression
  • Lower GPA’s
  • Social concerns
  • Substance abuse
  • Difficulty with money management

In high school, students rely on parents, teachers, and staff to create a conducive learning environment.  Attending college puts the student in charge of academic and behavioral success.

To find ongoing learning, students with ADHD should attend “real” classes.  Professors can provide support and customize instruction.  Students should work to ensure that interaction continues on an ongoing basis.

Accommodations play an important role in creating a “level playing field.”  College students take on the role of active advocate in their learning.  Being responsible, they must determine which accommodations are most appropriate.  Considering challenges specific to postsecondary education is key.

  • Record lectures.
  • Extended time.
  • Assistance writing notes.
  • Reduced course load.
  • Assistive technology.

While social skills can be a challenge, study groups provide a different perspective on learning.  Students with ADHD should focus on listening, compared to arguing.  Another important consideration is to ask thoughtful questions.

Personal supports provide options that are privately available.  Counselors and therapists provide opportunities to share stressful situations and develop solutions.  Coaches use dialogue to create action plans.  Tutors can fill the gap between teaching and understanding.

Traveling on the WayBack Machine…

Ahh…Math, my first love.  What’s my second love?  Accounting.  Being an accountant was a lot of fun, but my childhood dream came crashing forward.  Welcome to Ridgeview Middle School.  Pre-algebra and Algebra 1.  What could be better than that?

It took about 3 weeks to get my answer.  Worksheets, quizzes, tests.  Who knew that schools use this much paper?  I long for the quiet of my office.

After school…

Here comes Craig.

Craig was a junior attending an out of state university.  He needed an Accounting 101 tutor.  Sign me up.

Mom greeted me at the door with a smile.  “I forgot to tell you…Craig has ADHD.”  Knowing content was one thing, but ADHD is something else.  Luckily I was ready with experience.  “I teach and have a degree in accounting, with more than 5 years experience working one-on-one with college students with ADHD.  I’m ready for anything!”

Smile back.  This is no sweat.

Lesson:  Content knowledge is not enough.  Look far and wide for someone who has equal experience with your specific age group and ADHD.

It is recommended that students with ADHD apply for college as early as possible.  High school teachers and school staff can provide supportive opportunities to facilitate the selection process.  Look for colleges/universities that encourage students with a variety of needs and abilities.

The teen years provide opportunities for students with ADHD to prepare for the independence that college requires.  Self-advocacy and self-knowledge are at the top of the list. Practice on organization, study skills, and social skills to ensure active learning.

What are your biggest concerns about attending college?





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