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ADHD and lower GPA

I'm looking ahead at college admissions for my daughter graduating in 2021. (I have a 2019 graduate - so I just lived the process)

My 2021 daughter had undiagnosed ADHD and her grades were significantly impacted by her ADHD. (Actually inattentive ADD). I'm interesting in how people think we should handle the ADHD in the application process.

Here's the background:

I noticed things were not going well as early as September her freshman year. I reported it to teachers and councilors. Initially I was told "Transition to HS can be difficult, give her time to adjust." That semester was also Hurricane Harvey - so schools were closed for a week and things in general were crazy.

By the end of Freshman year we had a diagnosis from a psychiatrist and started therapy. We also were having her evaluated by the school just to make sure she did not have any processing disorders. But since it was at the end of the year - the testing and classroom observation did not take place until fall her Sophomore year. We also started her on medication over the summer but the week before school started she had issues with her heart racing and we had to see a cardiologist before we could continue medication. So she started her sophomore year without medication and without a 504 in place.

We got the 504 in place and continued the SPED testing through the school. I was surprised when the results came back and she qualified for an IEP. Apparently - when observed if the normal attentiveness in class was 90 or 95 percent with other students - my daughter was at 60.

I think second semester freshman year my daughter had a 2.0 weighted GPA and a 1.7uw. Since she did not get medication or accommodation until the middle of the first semester of 10th grade - those grades were not great. But they were tremendous improvement from the 1st 6 weeks until the 3rd six week. She somehow managed to pull a failing pre-calculus grade up to B for the semester.

Her GPA for her first 3 semesters of HS:
2.69uw/2.92w (this GPA puts her in the bottom quarter of her class) She got a D in a AP class, failing the final - but managing to get a 3 on the actual AP test.

First semester with medication and IEP
3.67 uw and w (took no ap classes - but was in pre-calculus as a sophomore)

Next year (junior year) she will be in AP Calculus AB and APUSH - and now that she is done with her foreign language requirement, she will be able to take electives that she won't struggle with.

She has not taken the SAT or ACT. But looking at her PSAT question breakdown - time was factor for her. She did get an 1150 - but did not answer some of the questions at the end. She takes the PSAT again as a junior. And we do have time and a half accommodation from the college board in place now. Historically, she tests slightly better than her sister (sister's PSAT was 1120) - So I anticipate a 29 or better ACT and at least a 1300 SAT.

I know many people say not to mention ADHD in the application process - but since I think there is going to be a dramatic difference in her academic performance pre treatment vs post treatment I wonder if should be the focus of her essays.
7 replies
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Replies to: ADHD and lower GPA

  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10113 replies118 threads Senior Member
    I would not use the essay to explain the diagnosis. I would ask the guidance counselor to note it in their letter of recommendation.
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  • suzy100suzy100 5695 replies58 threads Senior Member
    I agree about leaving this to the GC. I would also ask the GC to include a timeline (abbreviated) so it's clear when the diagnosis and meds started.
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  • cinnamon1212cinnamon1212 1160 replies9 threads Senior Member
    Two of my sons have ADHD. One, per his college counselor, did not mention it, despite the fact that he repeated 10th grade. He did not get into most of the colleges he applied to.

    My other son wrote about his ADHD in the context of his demanding manual labor summer jobs -- about how he always thought he was lazy, but the job showed him he actually worked incredibly hard. There was a lot more to it than that, but he talked about it head on. He got into almost every school he applied to, and is attending a reach school with a sub 20% admit rate.

    These are anecdotal, do with this info what you will!
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  • taverngirltaverngirl 1651 replies45 threads Senior Member
    I'll be following - similar story of son tanking freshman year (coincided with mandatory iPad use (with no restrictions whatsoever) and being placed into all honors classes, so we weren't sure if either or both of those were contributing factors. Sophomore year dropped down to almost all advanced and the school put some limits in place on the iPads. Did marginally better but not up to potential. Got a full neuropsych end of sophomore year and diagnosed with ADD. Son didn't want to medicate but I did very much structure his time with school work and had to stay on top of him. Ended up improving his grades slightly. Junior year has been disastrous once again, so we just picked up a prescription that he'll be starting tomorrow. He's hovering at just under a 3.0w. I do hope his GC puts all this into his recommendation, but I admit I've wondered how he could somehow communicate it through his essay, like cinnamon1212's son. Too late for this year to help too much, but we are hoping he can evaluate the effectiveness of the meds in the last few weeks of school.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24727 replies20 threads Senior Member
    What are your goals? A 29 ACT and a 3.2 is going to get your daughter into a lot of schools. Good schools. Those stats are not going to get her into Duke or Notre Dame with or without an explanation.

    There is no need to take AP classes just to take AP classes. If she's not getting at least a B in those classes, consider a college prep level or honors level.
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  • BlueBayouAZBlueBayouAZ 588 replies11 threads Member
    Oh @twoinanddone - We are certainly not looking at Duke or Notre Dame (Though one of her cousins from Ireland graduated from there). We live in a state if you are not in the top 6% or 10% of your graduating class - you pretty much aren't getting into the "big two" state schools. My older daughter has a friend that had a perfect ACT and did not get into a main state school because she was ranked in the 18th percentile.

    Ideally - she would probably like to go out of state (but we would need instate type tuition). My older daughter 3.8GPA/rank 38%/28 ACT (subs of 29M and 27 E) had several options like that, in 3 neighboring states. I fear my youngest is not going to have near the options because of her freshman year. At her school the weighted GPA for students in the top quarter is above of 4.0. She is at serious risk of not being in the top 1/2 of her class.

    Right now she has some ideas of what she wants to study, but I want her somewhere with flexibility where changing majors isn't some huge issue. We are seriously considering finding some sort of career counseling or guidance. With her diagnosis - we know she needs to find something she has a passion and aptitude for.

    She keeps making As in Pre-Cal and Chemistry. But I think she would HATE an engineering career. (My dad was a chem engineer who was really an artist at heart). She has taken multiple internet career "tests." They keep telling her engineering.
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  • taverngirltaverngirl 1651 replies45 threads Senior Member
    @BlueBayouAZ University of Maine offers a flagship match program, where you would pay tuition similar to your instate uni. Info can be found here: https://go.umaine.edu/apply/scholarships/flagship-match-first-year/ We were very very impressed with their engineering program. Their facilities are amazing. Lots of other options if she wants to change majors.
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