Transition to College: Tips for Students With ADHD

By Jennifer Seter Wagner

Securing accommodations for younger kids with ADHD can be challenging and tedious. Both parents and teachers typically serve an important role in the successful ADHD student’s school life by helping them stay organized and prioritize their work.

But the transition to college can bring a new set of challenges, particularly since students will suddenly find themselves in the position of needing to advocate for themselves – not always an easy task when symptoms of the condition can include difficulties with time management, impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention.

“To be successful in college requires self-management skills, which is exactly what ADHD students struggle with the most: planning, prioritizing, and resisting temptations and distractions,” says Ari Tuckman, a practicing psychologist and an expert with the group Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD).

To help ensure success, ADHD experts advise these students and their parents to seek out and ask questions about available on-campus accommodations and to consider hiring an executive function coach to help with focus, organization and planning.

Challenges for college-bound students With ADHD


While the instinct for many college-bound ADHD students and their parents is to initially determine a path of coursework that will lead to a specific career, Dave Anderson, a senior psychologist at Child Mind Institute, says the college experience is better viewed as an opportunity to develop transitional life skills that will help these kids to adulthood.

Some students with ADHD get to college and thrive because there’s more freedom than in high school to pick their own classes or arrange schedules around times when they feel most productive. Data and anecdotal evidence suggest attending a four-year program may be difficult for students with ADHD unless a support system is in place.

Tuckman says the college experience for someone with ADHD may not always be the standard four-year, in-and-out approach.

Seek out accommodations


Accommodations for ADHD students are available at the college level, such as requesting longer time on tests, being excused for tardiness or receiving audio and visual recordings of a lecture. The student is responsible for registering with an institution’s disability resource center when admitted.

Experts urge families to research and compare these centers within various schools ahead of time – to ask questions about how the student will be able to access accommodations and what sort of documentation is required.

Consider finding an executive function coach


Rutherford and other experts suggest executive function coaching as an option to keep students on track. Tuckman says his best advice for the ADHD student is to secure a coach with whom they can check in regularly. “What’s the issue with your chemistry paper? Where is your rough draft? Let’s come up with a plan for this math test. When will you study for it?” he says.

Families should ask prior to admission whether their college of choice can recommend executive coaching services on campus or in the area. But they come at a cost, which can be tough for some families.

What success looks like


One student with ADHD who succeeded in college – but took a nontraditional path – is 26-year-old Stephen Soltero, who expects to graduate in fall 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Landmark College in Vermont. At Landmark, the faculty, many of whom also identify as neurodiverse, specialize in instruction for students with ADHD, dyslexia, autism and executive function deficits.

(Text Courtesy: US News)

Image courtesy of (ADHD Online)

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