College and University Accommodations for ADHD Students

ADHD University Students
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Student accommodations are designed to support students with learning challenges so they can achieve their academic potential. Accommodations help ADHD students both in how they acquire information, for example, in class, and how they demonstrate their knowledge in exam situations. Accommodations are intended to act as an equalizer between students, so that if you have ADHD you're not at a disadvantage academically.

There's no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed about receiving accommodations. Providing these accommodations were shown to be helpful for ADHD students.

Helpful Accommodations for ADHD Students

While you specific needs may vary, there are several accommodations that can be particularly helpful for students with ADHD. Here are examples of accommodations you might request:

How Information Is Presented

Some accommodations focus on how information is presented to students. Because students with ADHD process information differently, presenting information in different ways or formats can be helpful. Examples include:

  • Written instructions (rather just verbal)
  • Help with reading assignments
  • Ability to record the lectures (and be loaned recording equipment if needed)
  • A note-taker who writes the class notes


Students with ADHD are often distract more easily, which can make it difficult to focus during important exams. One helpful accommodations is to be allowed to sit exams in a quiet location. This makes it easier to focus and reduces the chances of getting distracted by noises or other environmental stimuli.


Other accommodations focus on helping ADHD students with the time-management challenges they often face. Some examples include:

  • Extra time when sitting exams. The standard is time and half, although some students are eligible for longer
  • Extra time to finish assignments
  • Reduced course load. For example, you could be a part-time student and still get the benefits of being a full-time student

Advanced Course Selection 

Picking your courses before other students means you can select classes at the time of day where it is easiest for you to learn. You can also pick your preferred teachers. Both of these options can help your grades.

What Accommodations Do You Need?

Typical accommodations include:

  • More time on tests and assignments
  • Permission to record lectures
  • Audio textbooks
  • Help taking or reading notes
  • Permission to take tests in a separate quiet area free of distractions
  • Priority class registration
  • Reduced course load
  • Substituting classes
  • Written instructions from professors

There are several ways to determine which ADHD accommodations you might need in college. If you have had accommodations in high school, you will know what accommodations are helpful.

However, it is important to remember that college is often a different experience from high school. You may find that your needs differ, so be sure to note areas where you seem to be struggling, and don't be afraid to request additional accommodations if you find that you need them.

If accommodations are new to you, it might be harder to know which ones will help you. Accept all the accommodations offered to you, even if you do not use them. This is because it can take a long time to add accommodations.

Who Should Get Accommodations?

Students who have had accommodations in high school tend to be more inclined to seek out accommodations as soon as they reach college. They have already experienced the benefits of accommodations firsthand and know how helpful accommodations are to success.

Some ADHD students get good grades in high school without accommodations. However, they might find that college presents new challenges and that accommodations might be needed.

When they reach university, where the volume of material to study increases and the academic standard is higher, ADHD students often realize they would benefit from additional support. This might not happen until the second semester or even the second year.

Benefits of Accommodations for ADHD

Asking for accommodations can be helpful for a number of reasons. Some potential benefits include:

  • Better grades: You can get the grades you know you are capable of.
  • Improved self-esteem: The grades you get are a more accurate reflection of the hard work you put into your studies.
  • Lower stress: Your college experience is less stressful and more enjoyable.
  • More opportunities: With improved grades, you have more options after graduation, including taking a post-graduate program.
  • Exam accommodations: If you have accommodations in college, you are also eligible for accommodations when you take admission exams for professional schools, for example, the LSAT or MCAT, or for graduate schools, for example, the GRE or GMAT.

Overcoming Reluctance to Request Accommodations

Many students with ADHD are reluctant to ask for accommodations. Here are some common reasons why you might not pursue this option:

  • You don’t want to be different from your friends.
  • Having accommodations would feel like cheating and put you at an unfair advantage.
  • You do not feel you deserve them.
  • You do not want to be labeled as someone with a disability.
  • You feel overwhelmed at the thought of setting up the accommodations.

Remember, accommodations were created to help students like you. Rather than putting you at an unfair advantage, accommodations ‘even the playing field’ so you are on equal footing with your peers. This is not cheating! Colleges and universities have a vetting process to make sure only students with studying challenges are given accommodations.

If organizing accommodations feels overwhelming, ask for help. A parent, tutor, organized friend, or even a member of the staff at the Office for Student Disabilities Service could help guide you through this process.

How to Apply for ADHD Accommodations

When you first get accepted to a college or university, visit their website. Find the webpage for 'Office for Student Disabilities Service' and start to initiate the accommodation process. Tell them about your ADHD diagnosis and request student accommodations.

The Office for Student Disabilities will then explain what information they need from you. The requirements of each school are slightly different. Typically these offices ask for a letter from a licensed clinic on letterhead paper, stating your diagnosis, how they arrived at the diagnosis, and the date they saw you and made the determination.

There has been an important development regarding the information you need to provide. Previously, your test needed to have been carried out in the last 5 years. Now, if your documentation is more than 5 years old, you can submit a documentation update, which is a summary of your original disability documentation findings.

If you had a 504 in high school, you could include a copy of that plan too.

What Happens Next?

Once the administration work has been completed, you will be contacted by the Office for Student Disabilities and have an appointment with a staff member. They will let you know what accommodations you are entitled to.

At some colleges, the Office for Student Disabilities will contact your professors to inform them about your accommodations. Other colleges will give you a letter detailing your accommodations. Then you can show the letter to each of your professors at the start of the semester, either after class or during office hours.

Most professors are familiar with how accommodations work. However, if they have any questions, you or the Office for Student Disabilities can answer them.

If Your Request Is Denied

If your request is denied for any reason, you can appeal. Often a rejection is because the Office for Student Disabilities requires additional information. Once you have provided the information, the accommodations can be approved.

If you need to take the further action, contact the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). They are the organization responsible for overseeing the accommodation process. However, it is always simpler if you can talk to the school first.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will asking for accommodations in college later hurt my career?

    There are laws preventing schools from disclosing information about you to others. If you do not inform your future employers that you had accommodations in college, they will not have access to that information.

  • Can I get accommodations if I go to private school?

    All private universities need to follow Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is a civil rights law that stops discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of life, including schools.

  • What if I change my mind and decide I do want accommodations?

    Even if you did not apply for accommodations when you first enrolled in school, it is not a problem. You can apply at any time. The only downside is that the review process takes time to be processed and during this time, you will still be studying and getting grades.

  • How can students with ADHD find on-campus support?

    Join a support group and meet other students in similar positions. This helps you realize that you are not alone and can share experiences with people who really understand. The Office for Student Disabilities Service might run a support group or will have the details of one held on campus.

A Word From Verywell

If you have ADHD, your brain processes and interprets information differently, which can create extra challenges in college. Accommodations can help make things easier by adjusting how information is presented and how much time you have to complete tasks.

While you might be reluctant to ask for accommodations, it is essential to remember that these adjustments are there to help you succeed and do your best. It is best to ask for all the accommodations your school offers, even if you are not sure you will need them.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Sollman MJ, Ranseen JD, Berry DT. Detection of feigned ADHD in college students. Psychol Assess. 2010;22(2):325-335. doi:10.1037/a0018857

  3. Harrison AG, Rosenblum Y. ADHD documentation for students requesting accommodations at the postsecondary level: Update on standards and diagnostic concernsCan Fam Physician. 2010;56(8):761-765.

  4. Educational Testing Service. Documenting ADHD. Guidelines for Documentation of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Adolescents and Adults, Third Edition. Updated 2020.

  5. ADA National Network. What are a public or private college-university's responsibilities to students with disabilities? Updated October 2020.

By Jacqueline Sinfield
Jacqueline Sinfield is an ADHD coach, and the author of "Untapped Brilliance, How to Reach Your Full Potential As An Adult With ADHD."