ADHD can create problems in college. Lack of organizational skills, procrastination, inattention and high frustration levels are just some of the symptoms of ADHD that can cause poor grades, missed or late assignments and skipped classes. It is important for students with ADHD to understand how to ask for accommodations during the college years, but just as important is being able to talk with your professors when you need extra help.
Initiating a conversation with your professor can be intimidating, especially if you are asking for help on an assignment, an extension on a deadline or asking for a second chance to prove yourself. Professors, however, are people and when approached with respect, usually will be open to giving assistance.
The following are tips on how to approach professors:
Check to see if the professor has posted or provided open office hours and make sure you visit during those times. You may also be able to set an appointment, which will allow you time to speak without interruption. By following the posted hours, you are showing respect for the professor’s time.
Address the professor correctly. Although this sounds simple, making sure you use the appropriate title, such as Doctor ___, will show respect. Assuming you can call him or her by their first name shows arrogance. If you aren’t sure what title or name to use, ask.
Understand what you want before talking with the professor. Exactly where are you having problems and what can your professor do to help you? Think about what you want before talking with your professor. You may have specific questions about course content, want suggestions on how you can improve your grade, dispute a grade you were given or be asking for special circumstances. No matter what it is, the more specific you can be when asking, the better the professor will be able to help you.
Write a list of what you want to know. People with ADHD are often forgetful, when nervous they can be even more forgetful. Before talking with your professor write down any questions you may have or notes to help you remember what to discuss.
Be honest and truthful. Let’s face it; professors have probably heard every excuse in the book during their years teaching. They can probably see through most of the excuses you can throw at them, so instead, tell the truth. Explain why and where you are having problems and how your ADHD impacts your performance. Explain what steps you are taking to overcome your difficulties and how you feel the professor may be able to assist you.
Don’t use your ADHD as an excuse for poor performance. ADHD can explain many behaviors, such as forgetfulness or inattention, but it should never be used as an excuse for poor performance or missed assignments. Instead, think about and discuss what you are doing to compensate and improve your performance.
If you have accommodations and want to discuss how to carry out the accommodations, such as extended time for testing, be courteous rather than arrogant about making arrangements. Rather than being demanding, ask how the accommodations could best be implemented.
Accept that a professor does not need to give accommodations prior to when they were formally requested. If you have requested accommodations based on poor performance, you are eligible from the date requested forward. A professor is under no obligation to change grades, grant a time extension or offer retests for any grades received prior to the date you requested accommodations. Although you can ask how you can work to improve your grade, accept you may be denied your request.
Most of all, remember professors have joined their profession because they have a desire to share their knowledge and passion for a subject with their students. Professors want their students to succeed, especially when the student shows commitment and passion for a subject and to success.
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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.