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ADHD and College and Higher Education

Attending college this fall: Do I need accommodation?

I’ve always done moderately well without accommodation, but it came at a great price. I pay almost twice the amount of effort as normal kids, but so far I’ve attained acceptable scores without any treatment or accommodation in school that enabled me to attend a selective college. I don’t know what I should do regarding college. I was just diagnosed and put on Strattera, going to 50 mg next month. I’m on 40 mg right now but I don’t notice anything different.

One thing I don’t want is to face the ridicule of my peers because in a lot of places, ADHD is a myth and even if it’s not, getting accommodation is “cheating” somehow. Should I only take the meds, and not request any accommodation? Should I get coaching, but no accommodation? Does getting 504 actually help those who have had to do without it for a decade? I didn’t declare my condition in my application because I didn’t have a diagnosis, and some colleges are very stringent with whether they even grant 504 if I demonstrated that I could do well without it, ADHD or not…


Hi Rubicon:

What harm can it do to make an appointment with your college’s ‘Office of Disabled Students’? This is precisely what they are there for—helping ALL students succeed. You shouldn’t feel guilty or embarrassed about seeking accommodations—you should feel smart and well prepared, which is what you clearly are.

Your peers don’t need to know about your accommodations; a 504 Plan is your business only. But you might be surprised how many other ADHD college students are out there.

Here’s an ADHD in College Survival Guide that might provide some helpful pointers. But really your next step should be a phone call to the Disabilities Office—even if just for a conversation.

Best of luck and kick butt!

Posted by Anni Rodgers on Jun 29, 2011 at 6:18pm

Anni’s advice is solid.  Make an appointment to with the Office of Students with Disabilities (or Learning Support…whatever it is at the college you’ll be attending).  At the very least, you can explain your history and you’ve established a relationship with them PROACTIVELY, rather than REACTING if you do encounter some difficulty. 

My husband is a college professor and he routinely expresses concern about students who don’t self-identify before they start classes.  Depending on what program you will be in, you’re going to have minimal to significant increases in what is expected of you as an independent learner. 

ADHD is NOT a ‘myth’, and while it’s great that you’re doing so well without accommodations, it’s always best to be prepared.  If you encounter a professor who seems to dismiss the need for accommodations, use that opportunity to educate about executive function deficits, and all the strengths that you have.

Posted by VPMom on Jun 29, 2011 at 6:32pm

I would absolutely recommend at least registering with your school’s disability services.  I never needed anything in high school either but now that I am at college, the help from that office has been amazing. I meet with a specialist weekly just to help my studying habits and create a plan for me to succeed in my classes.  I have the access to special accommodations like extended time for tests and a quiet room for me to take them in but I only use them when I need it.  The teacher doesn’t even have to know what kind of disability I have and the students have absolutely no idea what is going on. So overall, I would say that my experience with the disabilities services has been completely worth it and at the very least made me feel like there was something I could do about my ADHD instead of just struggling with it.

Good luck!

Posted by brigid on Jul 01, 2011 at 8:01am

College is a lot harder (and definitely more stressful) then high school. Even if you don’t use it, register with your schools disabilities services. And if your peers ridicule you for having ADHD, then they aren’t really great friends. Great friends are understanding and do not ridicule you at all.

And I have learned this past year that accommodations are made to make the playing level fair. Its not cheating. Not at all.

Posted by Dani1692 on Oct 15, 2011 at 4:21am

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