The College Quest

Essential steps to finding a school that meets your needs, sparks your interests, and respects your comfort zone.

Tips for college bound ADHD students on finding the right school, making friends and developing social skills. ADDitude Magazine

Make sure the school feels warm and accepting.

Michael Sandler, an ADD coach in Boulder, Colorado

Looking for an ADD-friendly college? Sure, you'll want to check out a school's disability services, but other aspects of college life -- a school's size, student culture, and so on -- are just as important in choosing a school. So before sizing up schools, take a look inside yourself -- and at your attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) symptoms and treatments. What kind of environment lets you thrive, and what do you need to be at your best?

Step 1. Understand yourself

To determine what you need from a college, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you know what subject you'd like to study, or what field you're headed for? Few high school students do. But ADDers lose motivation if they can't find courses that excite them. Consider taking a skills or interest assessment, so you can focus on the kinds of schools that will fan your passions. Your guidance counselor may be able to administer an assessment. If you can't determine an academic focus, stick to liberal arts schools with broad ranges of programs, courses, and activities.
  • Did you need support and structure in high school? Chances are, you'll still need accommodations. While college may seem like an opportunity to redefine yourself, there's no way to erase ADD from the picture. As you evaluate schools, check them for strong ADD support programs and for the accommodations they offer. Do you have a hard time balancing work and play? Since ADDers often act on impulse, without regard to consequences, a "party school" probably isn't in your best interest.
  • Do you prefer to immerse yourself in a subject? Think about schools that divide the year into quarters, rather than semesters. When a school runs on a quarterly schedule, courses are shorter and more intense, and you take fewer at a time. If, however, it takes a while for you to settle in, opt for a school with a semester system.
  • Do you thrive on individual attention from teachers? Focus on small schools with low student/teacher ratios. Large classes can be overwhelming or distracting for ADDers. And because we feel lost in the crowd, it's tempting to skip class. Unfortunately, one skipped class often leads to another, and soon you're so far behind that you stop going to class altogether.
  • Do you need a high-energy environment? Many ADDers need the excitement of a bustling campus to stay motivated. If you're such a student, consider a mid-sized or large college that offers several extracurricular activities you can't wait to join.
  • Do you have trouble falling asleep? Look for schools that offer single rooms or quiet hallways as accommodations for students with ADHD or learning disabilities. Having a private room eliminates roommate distractions and conflicts that can disrupt your studies.

Step 2. Check the college guides

Use the criteria listed above to identify potential schools as you go through Peterson's Colleges with Programs for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorders, or the K & W Guide to Colleges for Students with Disabilities, as well as traditional college guides. Tell your college counselor that you have ADHD, and ask what schools he'd recommend.

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TAGS: ADHD and College, ADHD in High School, ADHD Accommodations, 504s, IEPs, Teens and Tweens with ADHD

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