Finding the Right College
Selecting which colleges to apply to takes some care. There are published resource guides for prospective college students with ADHD and/or learning disabilities that provide an overview of available services and contact information at colleges across the country. However, since these guides are not updated yearly, it is likely that you may need to do more in-depth research to learn what services might be available.
By law, all colleges and universities receiving any federal funding must provide “reasonable accommodations” for students with ADHD. While the type of documentation needed to qualify for accommodations may differ from college to college, the accommodations tend to be similar. These typically include the following:
- testing accommodations (extended time, testing in a low distraction setting or using a computer for essay exams or to provide an audio version of an exam)
- note-taking accommodations (the provision of technology to assist with note taking or obtaining a classmate’s or professor’s copy of notes)
- audio versions of texts
- priority registration (the ability to register before other students)
In addition some institutions may offer the option to substitute courses to meet the math and foreign language requirement and the possibility of having a temporary or permanent course under load (permission to take less than the minimum number of hours and still be a fulltime student).
However, the laws governing colleges do not require that they provide any individual or group support to help students overcome their learning challenges. Consequently, vast differences exist in the supports available at various colleges. Some have very minimal staffing to provide support services and only adhere to the “letter of the law,” while other schools provide extensive support and encouragement to students with ADHD and other disabilities. Many colleges also have services available to all students to increase their retention and graduation rates. Besides learning about the specific services and accommodations for students with ADHD, it is important to find out if there are campus-wide supports such as learning and/or writing centers, tutoring services, individual or group coaching or any other programming for first-year students.
Although guides and the college websites are great sources for information, nothing can take the place of having personal contact with the resource people on each campus. If at all possible, schedule a visit to the offices that provide support to students during a campus tour. Some campuses allow visiting students to attend a class and talk with students with ADHD for a real-world perspective on what being at this specific college is like.
Answering the following questions can help determine if a college or university is the right fit for you or your child:
- What is the campus climate like and how informed and accepting are faculty and staff of students with ADHD?
- What type of training have staff and faculty received for working with special needs populations?
- Who in the college disability office and the learning center has expertise on ADHD and what is their experience, training and education with ADHD? Ask to meet with them in person or virtually to get a “feel” for them.
- What are the services that are available to students with ADHD and how are they accessed?
- How are accommodations approved for a student with ADHD?
- What type of documentation is needed?
- Are decisions made each semester? What is the student’s role in getting accommodations in place?
- What other learning, coaching or support services are available on campus?
- Is there any one-on-one support? How often is this support available and how long are sessions?
- What is a student’s role in setting up this support?
- Is counseling or therapy available on campus? How often? How long are sessions? Is there a fee?
- What is the student’s role in setting this up?
- Are staff available to assist in finding professionals in the community for coaching, learning support, medication and therapy?
- Are there any special programs for transitioning freshman during the summer and the first year that students with ADHD can benefit from?
- Is there a career center? What services does it offer and how does one access those services?
- What is the typical instructional methodology and classroom environment on campus?
- What is the range of (not the average) class sizes for typical courses taken by freshman?
- What types of instructional methods are used? Lecture? Flipped classroom (student prepares before class and class is discussion/application)? Online? Small group discussion?
- What role do professors play in a student accessing accommodations or learning support?
- How supportive are faculty of students with ADHD?
Very few schools will attain a “perfect score,” but the more ADHD-friendly answers you receive and positive vibes you get from your interactions on each campus, the better are the chances that you or your teen with ADHD will succeed at that school.
Due to economics, many teens are attending state universities due to lower costs of in-state tuition. Private and smaller colleges should not be ruled out given the possible financial aid available.