ADHD and College: Connecting College Kids for Success

ADHD and CollegeFor parents of kids who will be college bound in the fall, ADHD and college is a top concern. This is the child with ADHD who you have supported and for whom you have endlessly advocated! You have read multiple resources and spoken to numerous clinicians in order to be sure that you have had the right information to ensure success.

Now this child has graduated from high school. For a short time you rejoice and then realize that there will be more advocating in your future! After all, this joyous event has been proceeded by a very long journey that you have traveled along with your child! Why would you think that you would not continue to be needed?

I have been there wearing your shoes; a son with combined ADHD and dyslexia. The hills and valleys have been filled with school evaluations, multiple IEP’s with goal revisions, IEP meetings, a mediation session, and an out of district placement in 6th grade where he ultimately graduated. And now, it’s ADHD and college.

In order to have success as he applied to colleges, he took three review courses for those stressful SAT/ACT tests. Tests that don’t keep ADHD and college in mind, and are bottom line not set up for our kids with ADHD: long and boring material that they may or may not have ever learned or remembered and that supposedly determine the chance of college success.

He was refused by two colleges, one of which has a learning center! Unfortunately, he would have to be accepted by the college first. I’m thinking that there were different people running the learning center who understand learning differences.

He was accepted by a college much more rigorous that the other two, Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Interesting enough, this was the first year that they decided to make the ACT requirement optional, leaving a strong GPA to stand alone as a factor of acceptance!

Neuro-typical kids face many challenges as they move into an environment that demands organization, socialization, and independence. Our kids with ADHD are further challenged as they move into an unfamiliar environment and must utilize strategies previously learned to be successful as they notice others who seem to face academics without difficulty. Of course, each child is an individual, not the disability. But this is the importance of that statement: our kids need to understand themselves and what they need to be successful. Being different is ok and a healthy self-esteem must exist!

Despite individuality, here are a few ideas that worked and are working as this child with perseverance and confidence proceeds down this next journey of ADHD and college.

  • Ensure that testing is within a three year period in order to have a 504 in place.
  • Meet with the Disability Office Director to insure a good fit. What do they do for kids who need accommodations?
  • Awareness of strengths and weaknesses: If testing is a weakness, try to be sure that the class is run by a professor who chooses to grade based on many areas: papers, group projects. In addition, many build in assignments for extra credit.
  • Your student must continue to realize the importance of using strategies that have been learned as he/she continues to learn more about what works to insure success.
  • Yes, this child is in college, but remember to continue to reinforce those strengths you see. Encourage your child to look for those strengths daily.
  • Remind them: It is a strong and resilient person who can ask for help.
  • Because of some of the executive functioning skills that are so difficult sometimes like organization, time management, and working memory, it is ok to take on less than a full time schedule. Remember, they have had IEP’s and 504’s previous to college with necessary accommodations. Most of the time, these accommodations related to the disability of ADHD still need to be in place. And what are they related to? Processing information, focus, and all of those executive functioning skills. Overloading with too many courses only serves to negate the effectiveness of those accommodations.
  • Remember too that many of the college notifications are generic and do not always make sense to our individual kids. Sometimes our student gets notifications that he is behind because of taking only 4 courses. No, our kids aren’t behind. Remember, they are using their much needed accommodations, that take time. Support them and stress that this journey does not have a time frame that will be dictated by a school!
  • The stress of being told that he is behind may initiate the need that he must take a summer class. Remember, how much faster this course will go. Can accommodations be successful? What is the goal of the summer class and will it impede success?


Our son will be a junior this fall. He continues to understand himself and realizes the need for accommodations and strategies to achieve the goal of graduation. In his mind, his strengths outweigh his weaknesses. And in the end, this school journey that will always be hard is a means to an end: a way to follow his passions and to use his many gifts outside of those brick and mortar buildings with expectations that sometimes seem so hard to reach.

To understand more about ADHD and college, what ADHD advocacy is, and how it can dramatically help your child, please contact me directly for a free consultancy session. On our call, you will have the opportunity to share the challenges that your child is facing, and get instant feedback on critical next steps to help both you and your child. You can contact me directly by clicking here!

A little about the author and founder of ADD Advocate, Karen Lowry: I am a certified ADHD Coach. ADHD advocacy is my passion. There are so many school support challenges facing our children, that knowing your rights as a parent have never been more crucial. Effective ADHD coaching depends on effective advocacy for our kids. Remember, if you should ever have any questions about anything regarding school support, or just understanding about ADHD, IEP programs, 504 plans, etc….

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