Finding the Best College Fit for a Student with ADHD

Thinking about college and wondering what school might be the best fit for yourself?

Choosing a college is a big decision!  There are so many factors to consider: size, location, cost, facilities, majors, semesters abroad, the dorms, the food …. Whew!

If you have ADHD, it’s also worth taking your specific learning and support needs into account in making the decision. In addition to the typical considerations – such as large or small campus, near home or far away – here are six questions to consider in making the best choice for success with ADHD in college.

WHAT TYPE OF LEARNER ARE YOU?

  • If you are very active and learn best by doing, consider a school that has plenty of opportunity for internships or offers other hands-on possibilities. Berea College in Kentucky is one option for this.
  • If you focus best on one or just a few things at a time, consider a school like Colorado College that has a “block system.”
  • If you are very creative and like to put together your own program, look for a school that allows independent majors or self-designed curricula. Hampshire College is one possibility.
  • If you really don’t like school and feel unsure about how you and college will go together, consider dipping your toe in by taking courses at a community college to get the feel of it.
  • If you want to go to college but the demands of high school tired you out, consider a planned gap year and investigate college again once you are re-invigorated.

WHAT SUPPORT DO YOU NEED AT COLLEGE?

According to the website kaarme.com, 15% of colleges and universities in the United States offer only the minimum mandated services for students with ADD or learning disabilities while a much larger number, some 68% offer “enhanced” mandatory services.

Enhanced services typically include a designated disability services office, well staffed with experienced personnel; the availability of extensive support services including counseling, a writing center, on-campus tutoring, and others; and provision of meaningful accommodations such as reduced credit hours for full-time study, extended testing times, alternative types of assignments, and/or assistive technology. It is worth asking about those services you would find helpful when considering your college decision.

An additional 15% of colleges offer comprehensive support services or programs. Examples of this type of school can be found at http://kaarme.com/Learning_Disability_College_Programs

If you anticipate asking for accommodations in college, find out in advance what documentation you will need – this varies by school. 

WHAT ABOUT A SPECIALIZED PROGRAM ?

Still other schools, a smaller number, offer specialized programs and services to consider, such as the following: 

  • A few colleges offer curricula designed specifically for students with ADHD or other learning disabilities, including Beacon College in Florida and Landmark College in Vermont (also offering summer and other bridge programs).
  • Some students with ADD may benefit from intensive support to promote college success. A list of colleges with on-campus intensive programs can be found at: http://kaarme.com/ld_cp  (see also below).

WHAT OTHER OPTIONS ARE THERE? 

Hiring an ADHD Coach is one approach to increasing support around academic and life skills for a college student with ADHD or executive functioning challenges. A coach can support a students’s identification of goals, assist in developing and tailoring useful structure, skills and strategies, and can provide accountability to support success. Some coaches specialize in work with college students.

For students needing daily support and structure or students who may not be ready for the independence of dorm life, several non-campus programs offer additional support near a handful of colleges: these include College Living Experience (http://experiencecle.com/) and College Internship Program (http://www.cipworldwide.org/). 

WHERE CAN YOU GET MORE INFORMATION?

A number of resources can be used to learn about colleges that may provide “enhanced” mandatory supports to students with ADD or LDs, or be of special interest for other reasons. Check your library for a look at these books:

o   The K &W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorder: http://www.amazon.com/Colleges-Students-Disabilities-Attention-Princeton/dp/0375762205
o   Peterson’s Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or ADHD: http://www.amazon.com/Colleges-Students-Learning-Disabilities-AD/dp/0768925061
o   Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges: http://www.amazon.com/Colleges-That-Change-Lives-Schools/dp/0143122304/ref=pd_sim_b_1
o   CollegeWebLD  is an on-line, searchable database offering access to detailed information on disability support services at a wide range of US colleges and universities for a reasonable fee. www.collegewebld.com
 WHAT IF YOU NEED HELP FIGURING THIS ALL OUT?

Some educational consultants specialize in assisting students and families to find schools that best meet their special needs. For more information and a directory, see the website of the Independent Educational Consultant Association: http://www.iecaonline.com/learning.html If you go this route, you may want to look for a consultant with experience and/or expertise in students with learnign differences.

An ADHD coach experienced in working with teens and young adults can also support you in the process of considering what you want, deciding how to choose among options, learning ways to prepare for the adjustment, and finding success.
Posted in accommodations, ADD, ADHD, college, student

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