My ADD high school graduate can she survive college?

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    • #84765

      I have a daughter who has ADD she will graduate from high school in May. She wants to attend college but not sure what she wants to study. I am afraid that her lack of organization, willpower and goal driven abilities will hamper her in a college setting. Paying for college will not be easy for us so I don’t want to see our money wasted on classes that she might not succeed in.
      She is well behaved, people pleaser and follows the rules to avoid getting in trouble. She tends to stress out over worrying about things that haven’t even come about. She is already stressing over grades in college and she hasn’t even enrolled yet. I am afraid her lack of keeping things picked up and clean will cause her to be evicted from the dorms.
      How do I prepare her for getting her work done and turned in on time. Her high school teachers were not very strict on due dates being punctual. How do I prepare her for living with a total stranger and taking her feelings into consideration. She has a tendency to have emotions off the charts when it is her time of the month.
      I am dreading kicking off this part of her education because of the history of the past 18 years and feeling like our lives are on a never ending roller coaster ride.
      I love my daughter very much she is smart, loving, thoughtful of others and always eager to help. Her dad and I have worked very hard to read up on how to talk to her and discipline her so as not to harm her in any way.
      I need help with any suggestion of parents that have already gone through this and how you handled it. Should she start college next year or should she wait a year and just get out in the workplace? Finances are not bountiful so any help in funding her college career would be helpful. I have been told that there is assistance available for students with ADD, where do I go to find out about that?

      Thanks, DrammaMomma

    • #84806
      Penny Williams

      Most of what you described sounds like my daughter. She doesn’t have an ADHD diagnosis (we have suspected for years but she will not hear of it), but struggles with anxiety (general and social) and disorganization. She just completed her freshman year at a university 5.5 hours from home. I was scared. She was terrified, but determined. She did awesome! Made the dean’s list, even though she was convinced she was screwing it up and making C’s or worse the entire time.

      Like your daughter, she’s not organized and not particularly driven, although she knows what she wants to do and is very determined to make that happen. She is also scared to death of getting in trouble and that helps her focus on getting work done, maintaining better order in her dorm room, and not participating in risky or rule-breaking activities.

      I nagged her through 4 years of high school to use a planner or an app on her phone to track assignments. She refused. A few days before her first day of college classes, she began using a planner app for students, inputing all her classes and used it all year for reminders on assignments and such. She started using it because she recognized that she had to.

      We offered her a gap year and she refused — felt like it was a waste of time. I think a gap year is awesome for kids who don’t quite have the skills and maturity to be on their own. It may have increased her confidence, but she ended up doing well (except being terrified she was “screwing it up” every moment of every day).

      Here are a couple articles on preparing students with ADHD for college:

      College Prep for Your Teen with ADHD

      Good to Go (to College)

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #84826

      I really feel your pain, been there except that our situation was actually worse since our school system refused to see either of my kids as eligible for an IEP even after an additional diagnosis of dyslexia. There are a few pointers for you and your child to consider.

      1) It’s almost too late for her to enroll for the fall, so she’ll need some assistance in researching what’s actually available for her. This might be a silver lining situation since she should be able to enroll in your closest community college to begin with.
      *Be sure to check with the office at your high school about how to order transcripts. People go on vacation, there may be a charge for them, you have to provide the address for each one ordered, and may have to have the request signed by your child. *If you’re looking at more than the local community college, try to locate a copy of Kiplinger’s college guide of schools specific for the learning disabled (sorry, can’t remember the title). It’s a great resource with detailed descriptions of the type of support available at schools across the country. Depending on where you live, there can be schools with strong LD support that aren’t prohibitively expensive.
      *Check to see if the LD program triggers an additional cost. Most are offered as part of the school’s general overhead, but some are separate and can be expensive.

      2) Check the dates on her most recent neuro-psych testing since most colleges ask that the data be recent, with three years being the most common cut-off threshold. You may not need to have a 100% repetition of all testing so check with the school(s) to see what they require.

      3) Be sure you/all are communicating with the school’s admissions office, the financial aid office and the office that coordinates modifications and accommodations for kids with LD. The names of these offices vary a lot and sometimes you have to really search a website to make sure you’re looking at the right place.

      I arranged for my daughter to meet the LD support staff whenever we made a campus visit (although we did this during her junior year) so that she was speaking directly with them. At first, she didn’t even know what to ask about since our high school only allowed her to have more time on tests and didn’t take off for spelling. After being on a few campuses however, she was able to discuss available options more confidently. In our case, she learned infinitely more about accommodations from the college level offices than she did during 12 years in our school system.

      4) I’m not especially bothered by a new grad not being particularly drawn to one area of study or another. Given the estimate that kids with LD lag a bit in development and may not have experienced a lot of personal success in school, there may be reasons why they aren’t sure.

      I wasn’t at all confident that either of my children would be able to handle school either, especially because they had a hard time understanding their middle school and high school coursework. One was able to negotiate her way through and one is still working on his degree, but both already exceeded my hopes for them academically. I think as parents we have to let our children try for things while still serving as the launch pad and enabler. Each child has their own constellation of issues and strengths so the necessary supports are going to vary too.

      Good luck!

    • #85044

      Hi, have you thought about having your daughter enroll in take a few courses at your local community college, which would give her a chance to try college-level work in a less-stressful setting .. while putting less strain on your finances? If it goes well she could certainly transfer to a 4-year school. If she struggles, that’s a signal that she might want to wait awhile before attempting college.

    • #85052

      I want so badly to respond in a greater depth to this email than I can at the moment-as I’m traveling with my husband & children for the Memorial Day weekend today, and we are almost at our destination. However, no disrespect or shade intended, but for the author of the post and other women who’ve responded, do you also have ADHD?

      I only ask because I am a woman who has it. In fact, I not only have it but am involved in a support group full of women all around the works who have it as well. While all the items discussed are important to worry about, I just wonder if the people responding or asking have first hand knowledge nor just solely about raising a child with ADHD, but more so how to navigate life regardless.

      I have 3 college degrees, and my third degree is a professional degree (Juris Doctor), and I’m aware of others who carry PhDs, MDs, DDS, etc. in fact there isn’t a post graduate degree or field where you will find a shortage of us ADHD folk in. Also, it’s doable-really really doable. There is support out there-even with groups such as ADDA, which allow free membership to our fellow ADHDers who happen to be college students

      I can go into my experience, and will at another time if necessary or requested,but let me highlight something I know first hand on the other side of the education piece. About 4 years ago I was a adjunct professor at a tier 1 university in the western part of the United States. While there, I also was the supervisor of Admissions & Records, faculty advisor to several student clubs and organization, Sitting member of the scholarship appeals committee and a host of other things. The class I taught was in the Core Humanities department. It was a Core Curriculum writing course that all undergraduates has to take and pass, regardless of their major, to receive their BA or BS degree. From my experience, my students with ADHD, Autism, and other situations were more than capable AND SUCCESSFUL in their collegiate careers and in my class. My students LOVED ME (always had waiting list and people waiting til the next semester to take my class) and while others may see ADHD as a barrier or issue to do well on higher education action, it truly can be a tool that is utilized to achieve higher than others.

      Grant it, there are always exceptions to every rule, but if your daughter is motivated, determined and truly has a passion for higher education (and everyone does not, inclusive of the many neurotypical students that enroll into college every year) although your concerns are understandable (as a parent you care for your kids-I can relate as I’m a mother of 4, 1 of my children has autism and 1 of my other children have ADHD too) please don’t allow that to place limits on what she can do or how she will do. You e raised her the best way you k o how and trust that. The symptoms she has because of ADHD an be managed, assisted, and by the letter of the law, with the full support of the AMERICANS WITH DISABILITY ACT (if she is a US citizen, can’t spwak for other countries) she absolutely has access to accommodations to allow the playing field to be evened our for her. So thank you for reaching out on this post, I’m so grateful! But please, never place limitations or your fears on her success! She should go to college, whether it’s a 2 yr, 4yr or even a combination duel program (and yes it’s forseeable and doable-I have ADHD of the combined type and my educational background and experience bears witness that anything is possible) she needs to know and understand that the sky is the limit. And more importantly, she should know and understand that you fully support and are encouraging of her desire to pursue her higher education. Also, most students (neurotypical young people inclusive) have no idea what they want to do when first going to college. The fact that she is anxious or concerned is normal-she wants to do well and be great-so let her! I know money is an issue for many-but don’t assume investing in her education is anything less than a worthy investment. My email Please feel free to contact me if you want to discuss further. I also mentor students-I’d love to connect with your daughter. She needs to know there are a lot of us out here willing to ride this thing with her!

    • #85065
      Karen Guthrie

      My daughter was not diagnosed until later but she fits the description you give to a tee. She went to college as a commuter student for the first few years and gradually developed the skills to live away. It worked great and was cheaper too. Community college may be a great start. Also focus on doing the homework well not grades. And homework is not done until it is in your backpack! 😊

    • #168121

      I can’t add a lot to what has already been written. However, maybe experiences can be helpful. The way you describe your daughter, sounds like I was (and still am). For example, I worried about almost everything. With this being said, Everybody is different, has different support systems, what college she would be going to (how supportive they are of people with ADHD), whether she will be living at home and commuting or not and other factors. So, especially with the right kinds of support (and accommodations if needed), many people with ADHD graduate from college. I suffered from a milder version of depression (dysthinia) and severe social anxiety. This is long before I realized that ADHD was at the crux of my problem. I ended up not only making it through college and eventually through graduate school with a 3.9 (stupid multivate statistics).

      I may be an unusual case but, college was actually easier for me than high school. More surprisingly, graduate school was even easier (except the class I listed about). The reason was, probably like many with ADHD, I can concentrate a lot easier if the course work is interesting. High school covered many different subjects. If the class was something I found interesting, like psychology, or science (not math oddly enough), I did well. In most high schools they include a lot of things that may not be that interesting. When I went to college, I majored in psychology. However, in my case half of the classes were general ed many for four year colleges. There was a lot less “busy work”. On most days I didn’t have to be up at 8 AM (except Statistics, ugh).,and had choices between professors, and time slots. Going in I didn’t know what I wanted to major in so, I took a lot of general ed classes and dabbled in different electives until I found what I really liked and did well at. I ended up with a B average for my undergrad. Then, I went to get my Masters degree. With almost all of my classes being directly related to something I loved, I did very well. This is despite procrastination. Finally, what might have really helped the transition into college was that I happened to live literally across the street from one of the universities so, I lived with my parents for a few years. If I hadn’t, I may have had a different outcome with all of the distractions in dorms.

      So, it’s possible she could not only survive but, there are no promises. My main intention was to give you examples how they do. In addition, many people with ADHD are some of the most intelligent and creative people out there which of course is great in college. One thing that was invaluable to my success in college was that almost every professor I had was supportive.

      Best wishes

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