How do you REALLY know you’re ready for college?
By: Pam Barton, Academic/Life Coach
If you’re anything like the graduating seniors in my part of the country, they cannot WAIT to get out of here! The stress of keeping up with the neurotypical students (“I have a 4.3 and I’m going to ____ college…”) is just too much. They yearn for a place outside of the community of high achievers to the calmer waters of “college”, where they can start anew, start fresh. And let their intelligence shine.
But how does a student with ADHD know that they are ready to embark a new journey at college? Certainly, you were vetted in and accepted to the college of your choice, but what else does a college student with ADHD need to know to be successful?
Here are some indicators that can help you determine whether you are ready to take the plunge. Answer these questions honestly and see how it goes:
____ Are you able to get yourself up on time in the morning without the prompting from others?
____ Do you take your medication(s) without being reminded?
______ Are you capable of doing your own laundry and keeping your room presentable? You will most likely have a roommate who relies on you to keep your personal items out of their space.
_____ Are you able to break down complex assignments into steps to make them less overwhelming and more manageable?
_____ Are you able to make a list of these steps and other schoolwork, classes schedules, and essential activities of daily college life and commit to accomplishing it?
_____ Can you consistently use a calendar or planner to schedule and accomplish these necessary activities in a timely fashion?
_____ Do you know your most productive study environment? Is it in a place with many people like a library or study hall? Or perhaps a coffee shop with just a few people? Or maybe alone in a distraction free space? Or even with a small study group of classmates?
_____ Are you a good advocate for yourself? Can you see yourself meeting with the student disabilities office to obtain and manage accommodations? Or introducing yourself to your professors during office hours, or after class?
_______ Would you be willing to use supports at school like the writing center, or tutoring center? How would you know if you needed this support?
______ Are you open to joining a club on campus? (adequate socialization is vital for all!)
How many questions did you answer “yes” to? How many “no’s”? Consider this, every box you answered with a “no” represents an absolutely necessary skill, habit, or support for success in the independent world of college that you lack.
And you will be completely independent to rally these supports and habits for success – there will be no more parents to remind and prompt you. And while it may seem like a breath of fresh air to not have your parents hovering over you, it can also be frustrating and a bit frightening to face these tasks alone if you are not fully prepared.
If this questionnaire makes you nervous – that’s GOOD. Now you know what skills you need to learn, employ, and embrace. If you don’t yet have these skills, how do you get them?
The summer between graduation and starting college can be a good time to get ready. What could that look like? Here’s some ideas:
Enroll in 1-2 classes in your local community college. “Practice” going to college. This could prove helpful as you will be entering a completely new form of education at a time you will be required to learn many other new skills. You might be able to pick a fun and interesting class or two that can transfer to your 4-year university. (To find out, contact the community college’s transfer advisor, and your advisor to the college you will be attending in the fall to determine which classes might transfer.) It may sound like an imposition on your senior year summer – just graduating and having to go back to school – but this small sacrifice could be instrumental in setting you up for success in college.
Engaging yourself in classes, a summer job, or other structured obligations can further provide you an opportunity to practice using a calendar or planner so that this means of organizing your time and energy is not a new experience when the fall semester begins. Many freshmen don’t even bother with a calendar/planner – until flagging grades convince them they need to. Some do start out strong with a reliable system but lose the habit after a few weeks. A calendar, or planner, is integral to you making good grades during the semester. And in time, everyone realizes that their life is complicated enough to make this a necessity.
Any activities that hold you accountable to scheduled time, place, and effort are good practice for showing up well in college
This next step – college – is a big one. So make sure you are ready to be successful. Remember – you got into the college of your choice because you earned this. Make it count – for you.
If you think you might not be ready for college, that’s okay too. There are opportunities in the gap year sector, or internships and other avenues that can provide you the opportunity of additional time to develop the skills and maturity college requires.