Asking for Accommodations in College

Health Writer

Even though college students with ADHD are no longer covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, they are still protected against discrimination.

There are two main laws that protect students, but they are different in many ways. These laws mandate that all students, regardless of disability receive "access and opportunity" but do not guarantee success. Whether or not a student with ADHD succeeds in college is up to the individual student.

The Laws

This law is part of the Rehabilitation Act, the same law that contains Section 504. The law mandates that all people have access to electronic and information technology provided by the Federal government.

The American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects students from discrimination and mandates equal access and opportunity for all students.

Differences Between High School and College

During the high school (and elementary) years, schools are required to identify and help children with disabilities. The responsibility of not only identifying the students, but completing evaluations for learning disabilities, determining what services are needed, how the services are to be provided and follow up to be sure services are provided, all fall to school personnel. Parents and students are able to give input, request services and offer suggestions, but the school district is responsible for much of the process.

In college, it is the student's responsibility to request accommodations or modifications. It is up to the student to identify services and accommodations that may help and follow college policy to request services.

The student is also responsible for maintaining and providing documentation on the disability, previous accommodations, as well as submitting information on why accommodations are needed.

Where to Ask for Accommodations

All colleges should have a disability support office. This may be called by different names, for example: Disability Support Services, Office for Student Disabilities, Support Services, or Learning Support Services. You should be able to find the office in the college directory, on the college website or by asking in the college administration office.

College personnel within this office will be able to supply additional information on asking for accommodations. Since each college has different procedures and policies, it is important to find out exactly what your college needs and how to request accommodations or modifications. Students can find their requests denied for not following the proper procedure.

When to Ask for Accommodations

You are able to request accommodations at any time, however, it is important to remember that accommodations will be effective from the date of the request forward. Professors are not required to make any accommodations retroactive or provide retests or extra time for deadlines that have passed. If you are currently failing or in danger of failing a class, accommodations will only help you from the date you requested forward.

If you have ADHD and feel you may need accommodations, it may be beneficial to request accommodations and register with the disability office as soon as you arrive. This way, you will not have to wait for approval when you decide you need help.

Types of Accommodations

Colleges are not required to provide transportation or personal effects, such as glasses. Accommodations are also specific to an individual's needs, therefore, there are no standard accommodations. When requesting accommodations, you will need to be aware of what you feel you need and be able to provide reasons (with supporting documentation) or why you would need certain services. The following are examples of accommodations:

  • Oral tests
  • Computerized tests
  • Calculators for math classes or the ability to use a calculator during tests
  • Extended time for taking tests
  • Printed notes
  • The ability to tape record lectures
  • Electronic organizer
  • Receiving instructions for projects in writing
  • Coaching or mentoring
  • Course substitution

Some students also request accommodations such as advance registration or the ability to register online.

Other Services

In addition to accommodations or modifications, many colleges offer support services to students. These services may involve a separate fee, so be sure to check what the fee is before signing up.

  • Tutoring services
  • Computer, writing, or math labs
  • Counseling
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Web based classes
  • Life skills classes, such as note taking or learning strategies

A college education offers many benefits throughout your life. Taking the time to request accommodations to help ensure your success is worthwhile.

Related Resources:

10 Considerations when Choosing a College for a Student with ADHD

College Presents Additional Challenges for Students with ADHD


"Differences Between IDEA IEP's, 504 Plans, and College Accommodations", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Vernon College

"Getting Accommodations", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Virginia Commonwealth University

"Required Documents", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Lord Fairfax Community College