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ADHD and college applications

Sydney159Sydney159 Registered User Posts: 25 Junior Member
Alright, so my grades overall during high school have been decent but nowhere near where I think they should have been. I am a junior in high school and recently got diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of this semester. I've been struggling with the symptoms since elementary school, but I didn't come forward because I was insecure about it and thought that I was just a bad student. I'm on medication now, and my grades have improved a great deal. However, I think that those years that it went untreated really held me behind. Because I had to try much harder than everyone else to get even average grades, I had no time to participate in extracurriculars. I also haven't won any academic awards of any kind and my SAT scores aren't that impressive either. This worries be because people stress the need for extracurriculars and achievements to put on college applications. At this point it feels to late to do anything to make myself competitive. Is there anything else to apply for last minute or over the summer? Thank you.

Replies to: ADHD and college applications

  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 23,176 Forum Champion
    A few comments:

    -- Talk to your guidance counselor about your diagnosed ADHD and ask him/her to note it in your letter of recommendation to colleges. This information will be much better off coming from the guidance counselor as it will be stated as a fact by a third party and won't sound like you are making excuses.

    -- Consider re-taking standardized tests now that you are being treated.

    --You can also look at test optional colleges. https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional/state

    --There are thousands of colleges and universities out there. Seek out a group of reach, match, and safety schools that work for your academics and finances (run net price calculators) and that you would be excited to attend. Do not become fixated on any one school -- there are many places where you can have a great 4 year experience and get where you want to go in life.

    -- If you cannot do much in the way of extracurricular activities look at different college's common data set and focus on schools that don't place a high priority on ECs.

    --Anything you do over the summer will have value -- look for a job, volunteer somewhere you care about -- doing something positive with your time is the most important thing.
  • Sydney159Sydney159 Registered User Posts: 25 Junior Member
    @happy1 Thank you so much! I'll make sure to make an appointment with my guidance counselor. I plan to try taking the ACT in the fall and trying the SAT again in the summer.
  • ProfessorPlum168ProfessorPlum168 Registered User Posts: 1,978 Senior Member
    Are you on a IEP or 504 plan? You probably will get time and a half for standardized tests and for classroom tests. You’ll have to hurry to get these type of arrangements since you need to get standardized tests done by November or so at the latest and it takes time to do arrangements.
  • UrbanMumUrbanMum Registered User Posts: 74 Junior Member
    If your grades were not great, you’ll probably need to go to a less competitive college to start with. You can talk about the disability during admissions but what they’re looking for is the student who did well despite the disability and despite the fact that the student had to work harder. In other words, it will be important to apply to colleges that fall within the range of your GPA and test scores. Competitive schools are highly unlikely to overlook a lower GPA due to undiagnosed ADHD. However, the good new is that it’s not too late! Wherever you end up for college, even a community college, if you do well, you have a lot of options open to you. At that point, you can tell about your diagnosis and use it as a strength, as something you overcame, and the evidence can be seen in your grades. Something similar happened to my husband. He failed out of college and had undiagnosed ADHD. He ended up going back to college and doing really well, and even though his grades for the first two years were abysmal, he got admitted to an Ivy League medical school based on the strength of his last two years. During admissions, he talked openly about his struggles and how he overcame them. I wish you the best of luck. Chin up!
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 35,776 Senior Member
    @ProfessorPlum168 Students diagnosed junior year often have trouble getting accommodations on standardized tests. OP, you can certainly apply for it (takes some time, so get started if you plan to). But don’t bank on it.
  • overbearingmomoverbearingmom Registered User Posts: 117 Junior Member
    edited June 2018
    my son is on the autism spectrum, and while his grades don't show his struggles (he was pretty much an A student, a few Bs littered between the years), he went from spending every moment from getting home to going to sleep doing homework (often times in the wee hours of the morning) in freshman year to mostly efficiently (a little nudging needed to get back on track) with time to spare for ECs and pleasure reading/sleeping. Anyway, I thought that might make a good essay from a meeting challenges prompt. If you did moderately well (not perfect but holding your own), I'd mention that it is remarkable that you did as well as you did without intervention.

    Another piece of advice, when you look at colleges and if you think you might struggle, you might want to look at schools that have a robust special support programs targeting ADHD. I think one of the best benefits is that they have seen kids like you, and you might have a better time socially if you find kids that "get you".

    Most are Second tier, which might make them a "reasonable fit for acceptance", though this year has been particularly rough for those from what I've seen and likely will be for a few years. University of Arizona has a program that is widely lauded (my son ruled it out as too hot): Northeastern University in Boston, Marist College, University of Denver, American University (special program for freshman - not sure if there is ongoing support for upperclassmen, though there are supports at most colleges for Neurotypical kids who also struggle with some of the issues you have magnified) are just some. My son chose UCONN. We haven't used it yet, but it looks like it will be great.

  • shawbridgeshawbridge Registered User Posts: 5,587 Senior Member
    My D was diagnosed with ADHD in her sophomore year and was immediately given extra time on tests. However, she was denied extra time by ACT (she was granted by TCB but wanted to take the ACTs). The reason for the delay in her diagnosis was a major, unrelated medical issue that she had from ages 9-13. The ACT folks asked me to go back and get letters from teachers at her prior schools providing evidence of the behaviors that are consistent with ADHD. They were much more skeptical of professionals who were paid -- although we did get a TOVA (test of variable attention) done at the request of her school, which was quite important in their consideration. I wrote detailed memos summarizing the tests and their implications and over time, they granted extra time. I think it was very helpful to their consideration that we had a good reason why we were not paying attention to ADHD because she had much more severe medical problems to deal with.
  • zannahzannah Registered User Posts: 1,088 Senior Member
    Accommodations on tests such as the ACT or SAT are not tied directly to high school, but college application and admission. Thus there is a time factor in determining appropriate accommodations. There are changes in applicable federal law. Additionally, initial diagnoses of ADHD increase as college looms and are based on self report, often in the absence of supportive comments from teachers.

    Diagnosis of a disability does not trigger accommodations. The critical factors are functional limitations of the disability. As an example, students who are blind (diagnosis) do not access print text through vision (functional limitation). Accommodations compensate for functional limitations. In the case of the student who is blind, potential accommodations include live or taped readers, Braille, reading machines. Extended time is approved only when the compensatory method takes longer to access text.

    Diagnosis of ADHD itself is only relevant to clearly specified and demonstrated functional limitations. WHY does a student with ADHD require accommodations? How is that really known? An accommodation that does not address functional limitations is not preferable to no accommodation.

    Finally, clinicians may diagnose conditions but do not understand the need to clearly establish functional limitations that are separately evaluated. They simply are up on legal requirements as contrasted with diagnostic practices. To be brutally honest, some clinicians engage in diagnostic fraud such as misusing specific tests, misinterpreting or over-interpreting diagnostic informations, do not reconcile competing information, do not observe or interview multiple informants, review record, or want to help a child out.

    Finally, an eligibility under the IDEA in most circumstances are more interesting than relevant.

  • blevineblevine Registered User Posts: 865 Member
    Did you take the SAT while on your ADHD medication ? Did you study and take practice exams after your diagnosis and prescription started ? If not I would try again, take more practice tests and retake. Also try a practice ACT as some people find that a better test for them. My son was diagnosed young and found the ACT more suitable for his skills and test taking abilities.

    If you have trouble sitting through these tests but you feel more capable in classroom now, going to a community college for a year or two to get a high GPA, would make it easier to transfer to a very good 4 year college.
    And your SAT/ACT wont matter after a year+ of high grades in college courses.
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