Help ADHD Students Prepare for College in High School

Teens with attention deficit will be college ready if they learn these five skills in high school.

Higher Education Success for College Students with Diagnosed Disabilities Including Dyslexia and ADHD Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

Does your teen with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) plan to attend college? Is he or she ready to make the transition from high school? According to Department of Education statistics, only 54 percent of all students who start college receive a degree within six years. According to the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, only 28 percent of students who start college with diagnosed disabilities, including dyslexia and ADD/ADHD, complete their degree. Although good grades in high school and healthy SAT scores are predictors of success, other factors are key to doing well in college.

Landmark College has identified five areas that appear to influence academic success in college.

Academic skills: The ability to read and write with little assistance.

Your child should be able to read a number of pages in a textbook and comprehend what the author is saying. She should be able to write an organized paper using two or more sources. She should also have a system for taking notes in class and preparing for tests. Children who have been diagnosed with a learning disability should receive psycho-educational testing in the junior or senior year of high school, in order to know their academic potential.

Self-advocacy: The ability to ask for -- and fight for -- services and support.

College students are adults, and, therefore, they must advocate for themselves and request the support services and accommodations they need. One study shows that 75 percent of students who qualify never take advantage of the services offered by colleges.

Executive function: The ability to keep track of assignments, organize books and materials, and manage time.

According to a 2007 joint survey, conducted by Landmark College, in association with the Association on Higher Education and Disability, a student who struggles with executive function is less likely to succeed in college than a student who cannot read.

Executive function is the cognitive process that organizes thoughts and activities, prioritizes tasks, manages time efficiently, and makes decisions. An ADD/ADHD coach can help students establish structures and strategies for managing projects and determine the actions required to move each project forward.

Self-Understanding: Awareness of learning strengths and challenges.

Neurotypical students will benefit from understanding their learning profile, but this is essential for students with learning disabilities or ADD/ADHD. You and your teen should meet with the psychologist or neurophysiologist who conducted the testing -- or another qualified provider -- to get an explanation of psycho-educational test results, as well as strategies for learning.

Motivation and confidence: The ability to develop clear goals and believe that they can be accomplished.

Many students who fail or drop out from college are unable to visualize completing a college education. College students who would rather be somewhere else -- working, attending trade school, or traveling abroad -- are unlikely to take advantage of the resources necessary to attain a college degree. Students who struggle with self-doubt and insecurity, or do not believe they can do the work, give up.

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