Selecting and Applying to Colleges for Students with ADHD
I have ADHD. Should I go to college?
If you’re thinking about going to college, know that you’re not alone: as many as 5 of every 100 students entering college have ADHD, and having ADHD doesn’t stop you from making college a success. But before beginning the application process, take some time to think about whether a traditional four-year college is the best option to help you meet your personal and professional goals. Consider your options, particularly if you are not sure whether you are ready for that next step. Many students with or without ADHD who are finishing high school decide to:
- Apply for a job and enter the workforce
- Take a “gap year” to volunteer and explore their personal and professional interests
- Take technical or training courses to get specialized skills
- Enroll in a program at a community college before moving on to a four-year college
- Take time out to work on self-determination and self-management skills that will help prepare them for the increased academic demands of college
A support system including family and professionals who specialize in teen and young adult ADHD can help you sort through the options as you think about your next step in life.
How do I find a college that is a fit for someone with ADHD?
You can find information about colleges and universities in guides that are written specifically for prospective college students with ADHD and/or learning disabilities. These guides give an overview of available services at schools throughout the country. Useful resources include:
- Peterson’s Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or AD/HD, 8th edition.
- The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences. Information on admissions and support services for over 330 schools can be found in this guide for students, parents and professionals.
- CollegeWebLD. This online database provides information on the disability support services of over 500 colleges and universities in the United States.
- Understood. This website provides information and advice including topics such as options after high school for students with learning and attention issues.
- HEATH Resource Center. The HEATH Resource Center at George Washington University is the national center for information on post-secondary education (all schooling after high school) for individuals with disabilities.
There are many things to keep in mind as you look at each college, including:
- Does this college have the major or program I am interested in?
- Are campus-wide services available (for example, are there learning or writing centers, tutoring services, individual or group coaching, or meetings for first-year students)?
- Does this college offer specific accommodations for students with ADHD (for example, allowing extended time for taking tests, a note-taking service, priority registration for classes, or audio versions of textbooks)?
- Are the college and staff supportive of students with ADHD?
- Is counseling or therapy available on campus? How often? How long are sessions? Is there a fee? What would I have to do to get this set up?
How do I begin the application process?
The application process can be stressful for any student. There are a lot of details and dates to keep in mind, but the good news is that many colleges now use the Common Application, known as the “Common App.” It’s one application you fill out and send to multiple colleges. Check to see if the colleges on your list use the Common App and whether they ask for extra information, most likely what are called “supplemental essays.” Be sure to start your applications early, preferably in the fall semester, keep track of the deadline for each college, and plan to submit your application ahead of the deadline.
Admissions tests such as the SAT offer special accommodations for students with ADHD, but the approval process for that can be long, so be sure to start that early—even before you know where you will be applying. The following may be useful sources in getting information about accommodations for ADHD for admission testing:
- College Board. Information on seeking accommodations for tests administered through the College Board. These include SAT, SAT Subject Tests, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and Advanced Placement® Exams.
- Educational Testing Service Disability Documentation Policies. Information on seeking accommodations for tests administered through ETS. These include GRE, HiSET, and TOEFL.
- GED Testing Service Accommodations. Information on seeking accommodations for the GED® test.
Should I tell colleges that I have ADHD when I’m applying?
You will notice that your admissions materials, including the Common App, do not ask for information about any disability. That is because colleges are not allowed to ask students to share such information during the admissions process. Sharing your ADHD diagnosis is a personal choice; you might seek advice from adults such as teachers, counselors, or parents to help them make that decision. Instead of mentioning your ADHD diagnosis during the admissions process, you could focus on your strengths and talk about how you will succeed as a student.
After you have been accepted by a college, then you might want to disclose your ADHD diagnosis and apply for accommodations. You’ll find information about that process, along with tips on making the most of your time in college, in the Succeeding in College with ADHD fact sheet.