Dear Teen Parenting Coach

Q: Is College Right for My Teen with ADHD?

College requires planning, time management, and social smarts — which means it’s not always right for teens with ADHD, who may be developmentally behind their peers on those critical skills. Here’s how to know if taking a gap year after high school is the smarter choice for your teen.

Q: “Given my 16 year old’s problems with executive functions, is it reasonable to expect him to go to college at 18? Should I be looking at a gap year?”


Your teen’s hopes and dreams for himself may not match the hopes and dreams you hold for him. While you might see college as the natural next step after high school, your teen may not. And all options should be on the table.

I like the idea of a gap year after high school, but it must be planned well by an organization or a college counselor who knows how to design a productive program. You certainly do not want a year your teen sitting in the basement playing video games for a year.

If you can set up a gap year in which your teen has a job and/or educational activities, this can be a reasonable alternative to jumping into college.

[The Case for (Working, Maturing) Gap Years]

Your child could also take one or two classes at a local community college and live at home to get his feet wet. That way, he could learn first-hand what college is all about, and you could have the opportunity to monitor and support him a little more.

If your teen is set on going to a certain college, create a behavior contract that states what is expected of your teen. Agree that if it doesn’t work out — and we all accept it might not — here is plan B.

This advice came from “The Teen Brain on ADHD,” a February 2018 ADDitude webinar lead by Peg Dawson, Ed.D., that is now available for free replay here.

Peg Dawson, Ed.D., is a member of the ADDitude ADHD Specialist Panel.

Do you have a question for ADDitude’s Dear Teen Parenting Coach? Submit your question or challenge here.


The opinions are suggestions presented above are intended for your general knowledge only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your own or your child’s condition.



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