College Application Advice for Teens with ADHD

As a high school senior with ADHD in the throes of college application season, I know firsthand how overwhelming this process can be. As I apply to universities around the country, I’ve learned quite a few things that might save my ADHD friends some grief and frustration. The following 7 tips and strategies have been key for filling out and submitting applications on time, and for narrowing my search to find the campus that’s the best fit for me.

Be authentic. If you follow me on Instagram or read my blog, you know I am a big believer in embracing our differences. They make us special! I was very clear in my college applications that I have ADHD — I even wrote an essay about it. I think learning differently is an asset, and I want to attend a college that values the unique perspective I will bring to campus.

Break the application process into steps. Don’t try to tackle an application all in one day or even in one weekend. Break it into steps and work on one thing at a time. If you get overwhelmed, take a break. If you need help, ask an adult.

Speaking of help. . . reach out to your college counselor. My college counselor provided vital assistance to me, both in identifying schools and in approving essay ideas. Make an appointment, or lots of appointments, and take advantage of their knowledge and expertise.

Look at college support programs. Did you know some schools offer special programs that offer additional support for students who learn differently? The University of Arizona’s SALT program, the University of Denver’s Learning Effectiveness Program and The Institute for Achievement and Learning at Lynn University are just a few examples. Every school on my list has a Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services program. Talk to your target schools to see what services they offer to support the way you learn. A great resource for researching these is The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences (#CommissionsEarned).

[Read This Next: How to Apply to Colleges with ADHD]

Reach out to admissions officers of the colleges that interest you. I have been amazed at how welcoming and nice all the admissions officers are. They want to answer your questions and guide you to any resources you need. Reach out to them to ask questions and to share successes. That is why they are there. They want to help you.

Give yourself options. Apply to several schools. Your college counselor can help you decide how many applications to submit, but it makes sense to give yourself more than one option. Many schools offer application fee waivers to keep cost from becoming an issue. Community college programs can be a great way to start, too.

Trust the process. If you want to go to college, there is a college for you. You are bringing something very special to a college campus, and you deserve an equally special learning experience. Remember, you are special because you learn differently. Your unique perspectives, and even the support you need, are an asset. They make the campus community stronger, more diverse, and more interesting. Many famous people and CEOs have ADHD. Their out-of-the-box problem-solving skills are a huge asset in their careers, and you offer the same assets to your college career and campus.

I look forward to attending a school next fall that offers support to students who learn differently, because they recognize that those students add value and make their campus more dynamic. I’m guessing you do, too. I hope these tips will help you in your application process. Drop me a note on my website and let me know where you end up!

College Applications and ADHD: Next Steps

Graceanne “Gracie” Dix is a high school student and author of Journey to Superhero School, An Oliver and Jess Prequel to the Vork Chronicles (#CommissionsEarned) and Welcome to Superhero School, Book One of the Vork Chronicles (April 28, 2020, Toast Industries) (#CommissionsEarned)

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Updated on November 12, 2020

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