Some students and their families wait until the studentís senior year in high school to start preparing for college. When the student has Attention Deficit Disorder, waiting until the senior year makes it harder to find the right mix for college success. You need a multi-year plan to move your college dreams into reality.
Before the senior year:
Many students with Attention Deficit Disorder also have reading, writing, or math learning disabilities. Make sure that your exceptionalities are listed on your IEP. American College Testing (ACT) will give accommodations to help students who regularly use the accommodations on classroom and state testing. Go to their website and see what you need to do to get the accommodations that you regularly use. This can make the difference between a test score that is acceptable and one that is exceptional. Get them on the IEP as early as possible, if they are regularly used.
Take an ACT PLAN test during your 10th grade year to see how your academics are progressing. If it looks like you have some difficulties in a certain area, consider getting a tutor.
Choose classes that prepare you for college. Do homework. Use an organizer to help you learn to manage your time. Keep your grade point average as high as you can.
Complete an interest inventory. Go over it with your counselor. This will help you focus on schools that specialize in your interests.
Do some volunteer work; Join organizations that interest you. These things look good on a resume.
Try to get a summer job or volunteer position to broaden your experiences.
Start writing your resume. You should list jobs, both paid and volunteer, and organizations that you have belonged to. Tell about leadership positions that you have held. Add any honors that you have received.
Visit some local colleges with your parents. Look at their services to help students with special needs. Do they offer what you need? What levels of financial aid do they offer? Consider going to a community college for the first two years. At my first school, a large university, my history class had over 500 students crowded into an auditorium. This was not an atmosphere where I could work effectively.
Start researching scholarships and grants online. There are some for students with ADD/ADHD. Talk to your high school counselor. Here is a word of caution: If an organization or website asks for money to ďprocessĒ your application, donít apply through them. Legitimate financial aid organizations donít ask for money. Even if their package sounds attractive, donít apply there!
You might want to take an ACT prep course. This can help you understand the mechanics of taking the test. It might help you to be less stressed.
Get yourself organized and send in paperwork for ACT accommodations toward the end of the year. This will give you some time to get everything together.
Make a notebook that has your lists of scholarships, grants and colleges that you are considering. Practice filling out applications for scholarships and schools. Show them to your high school counselor and get feedback.
Take the ACT with accommodations early in the year. Then, if you donít get the score that you need, you have time to take it again.
Apply to colleges. Keep copies of your applications in your notebook. Write down when you submitted the application.
After the first of the year, work with your parents to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. Follow the instructions; they will walk you through the process. Make sure that the FAFSA is submitted correctly. You canít get any financial aid without filling out a FAFSA. Our oldest sonís college of choice didnít send us anything about his financial aid. In July we found out that his FAFSA had been submitted incorrectly. It was too late to get a decent package that would allow him to go there. We scrambled and found another college for him to attend. He was fortunate.
Before your freshman year of college:
Visit your college and get acquainted with people who can help you in the access office. Be aware that the college will not talk to your parents about you. If you have been used to your parents straightening out problems for you, just know that it doesnít happen that way when you are in college. Your parents can coach you and give advice. YOU do the talking.
Walk around the college and find out the places that you need to know about. If there is a health office or nurse, you need to find that. Where are the security people? The cafeteria is a must-know! Figure it out before your first day.
After you get your schedule, make your own schedule. Put your classes into a time frame. Then, schedule study time for each class. Make time for leisure activity. Also, know that your laundry and chores donít do themselves. Itís up to you. Schedule them!
Find the best places to study on campus. Where can you find a free tutor? How do you know when your teachers are available? Never let yourself get behind. Even if you never studied in high school, but still made good grades, just know that college is different. You must studyóevery day!
This is just the beginning of planning for college. There are some good books to read. Delivered from Distraction with ADD by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Ratey, M. D has a great chapter about the pitfalls of going to college. Another good book is by Michael Sandler. College Confidence with ADD: The Ultimate Success Manual for ADD Students, from Applying to Academics, Preparation to Social Success and Everything Else You Need to Know is a well-respected reference. For people with ADD, success comes from preparation. Start preparing early for your college career.
Here is a link to Delivered to Distraction, one of the best books that I have ever read about ADD. It has a super chapter on college.
Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder
This book is a well-respected reference about building success in college for students with ADD. It is recommended reading. There are some used copies, too.
College Confidence with ADD: The Ultimate Success Manual for ADD Students, from Applying to Academics, Preparation to Social Success and Everything Else You Need to Know