Going to college when you have ADHD is challenging. It’s nice to see that people are starting to talk about it. Two recent articles, 18 Critical Factors For Successful Post-Secondary Transition by Joan Azarava, and Learning Disabilities: Stepping Up to the Challenge in the New York Times, both give good advice about how to make the move to living away from home and adapting to the rigors of a more challenging academic environment.
ADHD students don’t need tutors as much as they need coaches
What struck us at the Edge Foundation, however, is that neither article mentioned personal coaching. High school students have built-in structure and accountability living under their parent’s watchful eye. In the free-wheeling life of college, however, students face a set of very predictable challenges. Challenges that going to the tutoring center or getting extended time on their tests will not address.
As Edge Foundation founding board member, Dr. Patricia Quinn points out, “While most colleges provide services for students with disabilities, these programs often are not a good match for students with ADHD. While some students with ADHD may need tutoring because they have gaps in their academic skills, or note takers because they have trouble listening in a large lecture, these services do not address the basic problems students with ADHD experience in forming routines and developing a schedule to keep up with their work.” Coaching Students with ADHD: Issues and Answers (Quinn, Ratey, and Maitland, 2000)
For most college students with ADHD the problems are not so much in knowing what to do, but in getting it done. As one student said, “I know how to plan. My problem is very simple; I just don’t follow my plans. I need help making sure that I do what I say I am going to do instead of procrastinating and getting sidetracked by other things.”
ADHD college survival skills are not taught in the learning center
Ms. Azarva rightfully points out the need for students to learn how to persevere, delay gratification, and set up organizational systems that work for them. “The sooner you work on these three things, the easier college will be.”
However, these are exactly the things students with ADHD are weakest in. These skills are not taught at the learning center. These skills are best taught by a personal coach who thoroughly understands ADHD.
Most colleges don’t offer personal coaches
There are over 4000 colleges and universities in the U.S. Of these, only a few dozen offer personal coaching to their students. Yet more and more are finding that personal coaching is the critical piece that’s been missing for their ADHD students. One Director of Student Services found that he and his staff were spending most of their time helping students with ADHD manage themselves and their academics. When he learned about the effectiveness of ADHD coaching techniques, he did his research, got a grant, and put his entire staff through training. That community college is one of the very few colleges or universities nationwide that provide personal coaching for their students with ADHD. If you work with an Edge Coach, your options of where to go to college and have access to coaching open up considerably.
Find a ADHD coach now, so you are ready to go in the fall
One of the nice things about Edge Coaches is they all work on the phone. This takes transportation right out of the equation. You can start working with your coach over the summer and, because you don’t meet in an office, you can “take your coach with you” when you go off to school. You get to your appointments just by picking up the phone, so there’s no commute and you can easily fit your appointments into your schedule. And, by virtue of a phone/email relationship, you stay in much closer touch with your coach than you would if you had to go to an office. This extra contact can make all the difference in being able to stay on top of things.
Think about getting started even before you leave for college. Those first few weeks are guaranteed to be overwhelming, and your coach can help you stay on track. The numbers show that in college it’s surprisingly easy for students with ADHD to fall behind. Getting your first term grades and finding you’ve tanked is a Christmas present no one wants to get. So, start thinking now about getting ready for the fall. Look into getting an Edge Coach to help you keep it all together.