College or Gap Year? Deciding What to Do Next

 ADHD Weekly 2017-01-26

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Is college right for your high school student? Are you worried that his ADHD symptoms might make it difficult for him to thrive in a college or university setting? 

“I don’t automatically assume that every teen I see is destined for college or even that college is what would be best for all of them,” says Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA, a clinical psychologist from West Chester, Pennsylvania, who specializes in diagnosing and treating children, teens, and adults with ADHD. He writes in CHADD’s Attention magazine that not every young adult affected by ADHD is ready for college at the end of high school. Dr. Tuckman says some young adults can benefit from a gap year–a time between the end of high school and continuing on to college

 “College success requires two maturities,” Dr. Tuckman says, adding that ADHD often includes a maturity delay that affects young adults. Intellectual maturity requires being able to “handle the academic challenges on one’s own without parental guidance. This also involves knowing who, when, and how to ask for help, if necessary.” By contrast, emotional maturity is being able to “strike an appropriate balance between studying and enjoying the social and recreational aspects of college.”

Dr. Tuckman says he knows many parents worry that if their children don’t attend college right after high school they might not go to college later. 

“While this is true for some young adults, if the break is well conceived, it will serve its purpose as a solid stepping stone that enables them to make much better use of the college experience,” Dr. Tuckman says. 

What can your young adult do during a gap year? Dr. Tuckman suggests:

Attend a local college while living at home. This gives the student experience with college-level work, while still providing the structure of living at home.

Get a job. This could be something personally meaningful, such as working for a nonprofit, or simply something to make a buck. This teaches responsibility and signifies that this is a new time of life.

Live abroad or in a different part of the country. This can be a fantastic opportunity to gain exposure to other ways of life. During the time away, the young adult may take classes or work, or both.

Join the military. The armed forces can be just the thing for some graduating seniors who need a great deal of structure and don’t know what they want to do for a career. The military tends to offer perks such as job training and college classes.

From Attention magazine’s Is College Right for You?

How do you know if your high school student is ready for college or could he benefit from a gap year? Keep reading Is College Right for You?

For more information on college academic accommodations and supports:

Is your young adult taking a gap year or did you have a gap year before attending college? Do you think a gap year is beneficial for a young adult? Share your thoughts.