Ask the Experts

Q: “How Do I Measure College Readiness for My Teen with ADHD?”

There is no test to score college readiness. For teens with ADHD, the best indication may be this: Can they recognize when they need help and ask for it?

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Q: “My son will be starting college this Fall. He still struggles with time management and organization, and I’m worried about how he will do in a new, challenging environment on his own, especially with ADHD. How do I know if my son is actually ready for college?” – ConcernedMom

Hi ConcernedMom:

I feel your pain. I vividly remember watching my son navigate his senior year and all the responsibilities that came with it wondering the same!

A wise man once told me that college is 70% life skills and 30% study skills, and it’s that 70% that will make you successful both in learning and in life. To this day, I believe that to be true.

This is why I call myself an academic/life coach. Academic skills are super important; don’t get me wrong. But in my experience, they are more easily learned than are life skills.

I’ve seen my coaching students develop good study habits, learn how to plan their time, or learn to write effective papers utilizing their college’s academic and tutoring resources and accommodations. However, day-to-day success tends to flow most from the life skills I help my students with ADHD and executive functioning challenges establish, and the situations I help them navigate.

[Essential Reading: Conquering College with ADHD]

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Is your son able to get up on his own in the morning, get himself ready, and get out the door in time for school?
  • Can he articulate his challenges and the accommodations he needs to his teachers to make sure he’s receiving them? And if not, does he know who and how to ask for help?
  • Does he practice self-care? Shower every day? Do his own laundry? Prepare a few basic dishes? Keep his room fairly clean and organized?

Having these types of skills before heading off to college is important to your student’s success.

I actually asked my children, two college grads themselves, to weigh in with their thoughts.

[Read This: 5 Factors That Influence Success in College]

MADDIE: Truthfully, I don’t think anyone’s ever 100% ready for college, and that’s half the fun. Here’s a story: I went to school in St. Louis but had a close friend from New Jersey. So, imagine my surprise when she popped into my room one day and asked me to teach her how to pump gas — a life skill ingrained in me since I received my permit! Now, this isn’t to say being able to pump your own gas is a requirement for college, but it demonstrates how important it is to be your own motivator and advocate. My friend recognized that she needed to learn how to pump gas, so she got up and figured out how to get it done.

College is not about knowing all the answers. It’s about understanding and identifying what you need, communicating that to those around you who can help, and establishing the tools you need to get it done.

ELI: To be perfectly candid, I don’t really know if I was ready for college. Just about everything I was taught in terms of getting ready for college was so ingrained in my lifestyle and how I functioned generally. However, the absolute most important and effective piece of advice my mother gave me was to write things down in a planner. It absolutely worked! Seeing my whole week at a glance and having every assignment, event, and appointment laid out for me allowed me to have a greater handle over my time. If I could see it, I did it.

One more piece of food for thought: Sit down with your son and ask him how he is feeling. Allow him to relay his comfort level to you. For many of my student clients, college was an opportunity to live independently, improve their social confidence, and gain maturity.

Good Luck!

[Read This Next: My Child Is Going to College! How Can We Make Sure He Stays There?]

Related resources 

ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!