The search for the perfect college can be complex and challenging for both the student with ADHD and his or her parents. Just as the needs of each student are individual, colleges and universities offer a variety of programs to help students with ADHD, learning disabilities and other disabilities. Although there are federal laws governing colleges that receive federal funds, how colleges implement these laws and whether there are additional programs available can be different. Students must carefully look at each college being considered and determine which one will best meet their needs.
Below are ten considerations students should think about when choosing a college:
Location. Location should be taken into consideration, not only when determining if you are planning on living at home or on campus, but also when thinking about the ease of being able to come home for the weekend and during school breaks. Although a college several hours or even across the country may seem like a great college, if you feel you will need to come home for support, encouragement or to remove yourself from the college atmosphere for “recharging” choose a college that is within a few hours of your home.
Cost. We would all like to think we can attend whichever college is best for us, however, for most families, cost is a major consideration when choosing a college. Talk with your parents about the costs of college before you begin looking. Think about whether you will be able to apply for financial aid or scholarships to help with the cost. Will you need to work during college to help with costs? Understanding the financial aspect can help you narrow down your choices.
Understand your own needs. Think about what types of accommodations you received during high school. Do you think you would need similar accommodations to be successful in college? Make a list of what you think you would need in order for you to succeed.
What is your goal? Many, if not most, students aren’t sure what they would like to study or what field they would like to enter once they finish college. Many will take general studies or liberal arts classes for the first few years of college while deciding where their interests lie and what industry they would like to enter. Students with ADHD, however, can lose interest and motivation if there is not a specific goal in mind. If you don’t yet know what you would like to do, consider a skills and interest inventory assessment. Your high school guidance counselor may be able to give this test and it may help you find some direction for your college years.
Do you work better with individual attention? Large universities and large classes may be overwhelming or distracting. If you prefer individual attention and smaller class sizes, you may do better in a small college rather than a larger university. If you thrive on hustle and bustle and constant activity a mid-size or large college may be better.
Will you have access to medical help when needed? Ask if the college has a physician who has experience in treating ADHD. Find out about how students with ADHD get prescriptions for medication and what stores are nearby to have a prescription filled. The college may offer a list of specialists and medical professionals in the area who treat ADHD.
How many students with ADHD attend the college? Although you probably won’t be able to get an exact number as there are students with ADHD the college may not know about, you may be able to find out how many students with ADHD are registered with the disability office or if there is an active support group for students with ADHD on campus. You may be able to contact some students in the support group and find out about their experiences.
What are the policies and procedures for applying for accommodations? Each college has guidelines and procedures, as well as a list of documentation needed, in order to qualify for accommodations. Knowing in advance what the college requires can help you determine how difficult it may be to receive accommodations.
What accommodations are available to students with ADHD? Although accommodations are specific to your individual needs, many colleges may be able to provide you with a list of sample accommodations they provide to students with ADHD. This may give you a better view of how much the college is willing to work with students with ADHD to help them succeed.
What additional services are available? Many colleges go way beyond the accommodations required under federal law. There may be support groups, advocates, mentors, coaching and tutoring centers. Although some of these services will require an additional fee, it is important to understand what each college offers before deciding where you want to attend.
The most important aspect of finding a college is to understand your needs. Accepting what you need rather than trying to fit your needs into a college can make the difference and help you to get the most out of the college experience.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.