When you’re in elementary-high school, there are a lot of accommodations available to help students with ADHD. 504 plans and IEPs are the documents that K-12 schools use to outline what classroom accommodations are helpful for each individual student. In college, accommodations are more generalized and limited, but, as the work is harder and lengthier, they can also be very helpful.
Any college will be required by law to give you basic accommodations, so don’t be afraid of asking for them. Needing accommodations is common, and your school will have a plan for handling it. There’s no need to struggle unnecessarily with the work. Most schools have a department that deals solely with learning and physical accommodations. After being accepted to the school of your choice, you can contact that department to find out what their requirements are. Usually, they need to have a letter or official documentation from the doctor that made the diagnosis. They will tell your professors what you need, but they will keep everything confidential. None of my friends in college noticed that I was getting any accommodations.
Common accommodations are: taking tests in a distraction-free location, extra time on writing assignments, and extra time on tests.
These accommodations don’t really provide any advantage over other students. They just allow ADHD students the time and space required to organize their thoughts well enough to “show what they know”. Most ADHD people are very bright, but they can be overlooked in school because they have trouble expressing it and get overwhelmed easily.
Your next steps after college are up to you and your family. You know yourself best, and only you will know what you can handle. If you don’t feel like you know what you can handle, that’s okay. Take baby steps, and back off if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed.
I will say that the transition to college work and living on your own can be a BIG adjustment for anyone with ADHD, especially if you need to work while going to school. Because we struggle with balance and time management, it can be helpful to focus on one set of skills at a time: either “learning how to adult” or college coursework. Once you’ve developed skills in one, it’s easier to succeed at the other. It can be a lot to juggle, but with support and time, it’s manageable. 🙂
Based on my college experience, my advice would be this:
a. Be easy on yourself. Take a manageable course load (especially in the beginning), learn from your mistakes, and give yourself grace. If it’s not working, take a step back to evaluate why. Don’t just “push through” like I did. You want to get the most out of the experience.
b. Have a direction before going in. College is an expected next step after high school nowadays, but it’s also very expensive. If you’re interested in a career path, try getting a part=time job or volunteering in the field for a few months to see if it’s a good fit. Knowing what you’re going to college for can help you stay focused on the goal of graduation. Plus, it’ll be easier to complete the coursework if it’s interesting to you. It’s okay to change your mind, most students change their majors several times. But having an idea can help you make the most of financial aid and keep you from graduating with too much debt.
c. Get support. An ADHD coach or therapist can help you with time management, accountability, and managing the stress of the transition (it’s stressful for all students, not just those with ADHD).
d. Take care of your physical health. Your brain will function SO much better if you have a regular sleep schedule, eat fruits, veggies, and protein, and exercise every day.
ADHD students tend to take a little more time to adjust to adulthood. “Adulting” utilizes a lot of skills that we naturally struggle with. Personally, I wish I had taken a year or two off to work and develop some life skills. But, I was very immature and naive at 18. 🙂 I had no direction. It took me a little extra time (I was diagnosed during college), but I made it through! Now, I’m a little older and wiser and making As in grad school without meds. 😉 You can do it, you just have to find the path that works for you. 😉