College Application Help for ADHD Students

Help your ADHD teenager put her best foot forward when applying to college.

Applications 101, Part 2

Keep in mind that your child's personal statement, test scores, transcript, and recommendations are each just a part of the larger picture. A student with ADHD may have a high GPA, but low SAT scores, or vice versa, but neither situation need define him. By disclosing his disabilities and putting forth a detailed plan for managing his ADHD and/or learning disabilities at the college level, a student may tacitly amend discrepancies within his admissions packet. Unless admissions committees are aware that such schisms exist, the candidate may be summarily rejected.

Ready...Set...Apply!

A candidate must complete an application form for each school he wishes to apply to. Many institutions still use their own form, which you can request by mail, by telephone, or via the Web, but many schools now accept the Common Application. Submitted electronically or in hard copy, this is now the accepted application form for 255 selective colleges and universities.

Most colleges expect their applicants to supplement their application with an official transcript of classes and grades, a personal essay, and two letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, or other adults who can comment on the student's scholastic ability. Additionally, colleges and universities may be especially interested in evidence of a candidate's community service, extracurricular activities, sports participation, or other talents.

Successful Marketing

A vital part of the application process is distinguishing the applicant. Accommodative services granted by a testing agency to students with ADHD or learning disabilities are solely meant to give students equal footing in that section of the application process. From there, it's up to the student to set himself apart, to highlight his assets and bring his top-notch qualities to the attention of the admissions team. If your teen's SATs aren't stellar, do all you can to help him play up his other strengths.

  • The importance of the on-campus interview cannot be overstressed. Role-play questions to get your teen's confidence up before the appointment.
  • If your student has a mentor or a special relationship with a particular teacher, have him request a letter of recommendation from that adult. A heartfelt recommendation that comments on a student's personality as well as his in-class performance can catch the eye of the admissions office.
  • Your child's extracurricular participation can set him apart from the rest of the applicant pool. Remember to mention his activities that take place outside of school -- Eagle-Scout status or a steady after-school job says a lot about commitment and responsibility.

Also, remember that a high level of interest in a particular institution is an attractive quality in an applicant. If possible, participate in formal activities for prospective students, such as overnight stays or campus tours. Applying for early decision or early action at her first-choice college also implies a weighty interest, and might give her a winning edge.

Final Thoughts

Parents, remember that your own network of contacts can be beneficial. The recommendations of relatives, friends, and alumni of your selected institutions won't guarantee admission, but they may improve a student's chances of acceptance. Students, remember that actions affect outcomes. Continue to play a proactive role in the high school-to-college transition -- seeking out appropriate supports, assessing your growth -- even after the application process is over and you're finishing up senior year.

Most students with ADHD and/or learning disabilities have realistic concepts of their strengths and weaknesses and will be able to identify the school that seems "right." In the end, trust your instincts about a school and about the focus of your application. Help your teen coordinate an application that zeroes in on who he is and what he has to offer, and prepare to find sweet surprises in your mailbox come spring of senior year.

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