Choosing a College for Success with ADHD

 Find a College Where Your Child with ADHD Can Succeed! – A guest post by Judith Bass, CEP, an educational planner specializing in work with students having learning differences.

  • Does your teen still need help getting started with homework?
  •  Does she need help planning and organizing her day? 
  • Do you find yourself still advocating for your high school junior with his teachers and counselor? 

If these situations sound familiar, you might wonder how your child will be able to manage the demands of college!  Or maybe you think that his or her intelligence alone will be enough for success? 

The truth is that, regardless of grades and test scores, your child will struggle in college if unable to manage time well, prioritize academic responsibilities, and find a workable system of organization.


Jan attended a public high school and maintained a strong GPA through all 4 years. She took 6 AP classes and earned 4s and 5s on her AP Exams. 

Jan was accepted to some very selective colleges and decided to attend her state university with a scholarship and invitation to its prestigious scholars’ program.
Jan was excited to start the semester, and after the first week of classes, she placed her syllabi in her notebooks and made a mental note of the work she had to do.

After spending the weekend socializing with her new college friends, Jan sat down at 8:00 on Sunday night to begin her homework for the next day. She had not realized that her Psychology reading was 100 pages and that her English paper needed to include citations. She managed to do a decent job on the paper and read most of the Psychology assignment; however, she was so tired the next morning that she slept through her 9:00 class.  She wasn’t sure how to contact her professor, so she did not get the notes from class and did not know that there would be a quiz the following class. 

The same pattern repeated itself the following weekend, and this time Jan was so overwhelmed with the multitude of assignments that had piled up that she decided she was too tired to do any of it and went to sleep early. Jan continued to fall farther and farther behind, and by mid-semester, Jan’s grades were abysmal.

She could not bring herself to tell her parents, because she knew they would be so disappointed in her. Jan stopped going to most of her classes and continued to spiral downward emotionally.


Sadly, this scenario is all too common for students with ADHD and poor executive functioning skills.

Jan’s parents provided much of the scaffolding that kept Jan propped up during high school, by making sure she got her homework started every afternoon, sitting with her while she completed it, and reminding her of upcoming test dates and long-term assignment deadlines.

Jan did not even realize how much support she had received until it was no longer present.

So, she and her parents hadn’t thought ahead about what accommodations and supports might ease her transition to college expectations.

The good news is that a growing number of colleges today have learning centers that offer varied support services, including ADHD coaching or mentoring. Students can meet with a learning specialist or coach one or more times per week (this varies from college to college) to work on time management and organization.

Coaches can help students set up a schedule to include study time and free time; they can help students break down long term assignments into smaller, more manageable chunks, they can guide students toward self-advocacy with professors. When visiting colleges, it is important to find out if such a model exists and whether it would be a good match for your son or daughter.

In fact, it is a good idea for the parents and student to visit the learning center or the Office of Disability Services on every college visit to find out what services are provided at the college. The student needs to feel comfortable with the professionals in the learning center, or he will not want to go for help.  
As another tip, students who meet with Disability Service personnel in the summer to arrange for their fall semester accommodations have a much greater rate of success than those who believe they can do it on their own. By the time these students realize they need help, it is often too late to salvage the semester. It is imperative that students who have not yet developed strong executive functioning skills seek out this assistance before they fall behind. 

It is even better if they develop these skills before leaving high school, but we’ll leave that topic for another day!

Judith Bass, CEP is the owner of Bass Educational Services, an educational consulting firm that specializes in college planning for students with learning differences and CollegeWebLD, a comprehensive online source providing a complete picture of the learning support services at colleges across the US.

Image courtesy of ImageryMajestic/

Posted in ADD ADHD College Accommodations

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