ADHD and College: Three Important Considerations

Whatever you feel is behind the modern rise in ADHD diagnoses, there’s no denying that more and more of our children are having to navigate life with a learning difference that isn’t always understood or even recognized. And that means more and more students with ADHD are faced with the decision about what to do after high school. Do ADHD and college mix?

A recent article in The Atlantic reveals that though students with learning differences enroll in secondary education at about the same rate as the general population, that secondary education is half as likely to be a four year college. This isn’t such a bad thing, except that the graduation rate for students with LDs is lower, too (41% as compared to 52%). So what does a student with ADHD need to consider when they’re thinking about going to college?

Here’s some advice about ADHD and college from Dr. Randy Kulman, our founder and president.

  1. Go to a college where you can follow your passion. Plan to go to school to do something you really love. If you have ADHD, you probably already know that when you like what you’re learning it means you’re more able to focus and be engaged. With or without ADHD, we do better (and are happier in general) when we enjoy what we are learning or doing for a living.
  1. Look for hands-on learning. Even if you aren’t as passionate about what you’re learning, a course that gives you hands-on learning activities can make it easier to focus on material and get things to stick. Choose a major that facilitates activity — not just opportunities to move around, but technical/applied learning opportunities. Look for labs and workshops, outdoor learning opportunities, and travel abroad programs.
  1. Will you have time to “zone out”? How does the college accommodate learning differences? Apply to a college that understands how students with ADHD learn. (You might find it helpful to consult this guide from CHADD about navigating the admissions process). Consider your individual needs; what does it take for you to engage and transition? Many kids with ADHD need a support system that makes appropriate accommodations and holds them accountable. Find an advisor that can push you and help you. It doesn’t hurt to have a pedestrian-friendly campus with a lot of walking paths or a well-equipped gym for students use.

One more thing, and it may be the most important advice you’ll get about college: It’s okay not to go to a traditional college or even a prestigious one. A recent Gallup poll of more than 25,000 college graduates found that a college graduate’s happiness in life and at work has a lot less to do with the reputation of their alma mater and more to do with their student debt, the passion they have for their major, and how much they felt their professors cared about their success. You’ll probably want to check out this other guide from CHADD about choosing a type of college. You should also know that there are many college scholarships available for students with learning differences.

Are you navigating the college admissions process right now? Do you have any advice for other families about ADHD and college? Let us know in the comments or come talk to us on Facebook!


Featured image: Flickr user UBC Learning Commons

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