Not so long ago, the common, but misguided, belief was that anyone that had succeeded in college and was accepted into a graduate or professional program could not possibly have ADHD. ADHD was thought to be a condition so debilitating that those with ADHD did poorly in school, rarely attended college, and even less often graduated from college. We now understand that ADHD affects people at all points on the intellectual spectrum. It is not only possible, but not even uncommon that someone in graduate or professional school struggles with ADHD or other types of learning challenges.
We have come a long way in our efforts as a society to help undergraduate students with ADHD. All colleges and universities that accept federal funding (virtually all colleges and universities) are required by law to provide services to students with documented disabilities. By far, the greatest percentage of college students with disabilities receiving student disability services are students with ADHD or learning disabilities. These students have a right to reasonable accommodations that often include extended time on exams, the right to take exams in a quiet non-distracting environment, the right to note-takers in class, and the privilege of early registration so that a carefully designed class schedule can be carried out before desired classes are filled.
The tremendous gains made in serving undergraduates with ADHD and/or LD have, unfortunately, not yet translated into a similar level of awareness, support and accommodations on the level of graduate and professional school. Few graduate level faculty members have been educated to identify, much less accept and accommodate ADHD and LD. While a handful of schools have developing pioneering programs to support post-grad students with these challenges, many more are unaware of the needs of such students and are not accepting of these needs. Sadly, many graduate faculty members have distorted and negative views of individuals with ADHD and LD, believing that they “don’t belong” in business school, law school, medical school or graduate school if they can’t meet academic requirements without accommodation. In reaction to such attitudes, many students with ADHD and/or LD are fearful of disclosing their diagnoses, worried that their professors will resent providing accommodations and will think less of them. In fact, sadly, many post-grad students experience anger and downright hostility if they ask for accommodations that may be viewed as unreasonable or unfair.
If a study were done of doctoral students that complete their coursework, pass their qualifying exams, but never complete their doctoral dissertation, it seems very likely that a group of highly intelligent individuals with ADHD and/or LD would be discovered. There are also far too many medical students that have passed their coursework and clinical training, but find themselves unable to pass their board exams; too many law students that graduate successfully, but are unable to pass the bar exam. A few cracks in the armor are beginning to show. A recent landmark decision has allowed extended time on board exams; similar accommodations on bar exams will probably soon follow. And those few brave post-grad students willing to come forth, early in their graduate training, disclosing their disabilities and applying for reasonable accommodations are paving the way for more to follow.
At the Chesapeake Center we have worked with many students pursuing doctoral degrees, medical degrees, law and business degrees, and have helped them to successfully request and receive reasonable accommodations that allow them to complete their degrees and go on to pursue successful careers. ADHD coaching can be enormously helpful to post-grad students that struggle with time management and organization. For more information about our services to students in grad school, medical school, law school and business school, call The Chesapeake Center at (301)-562-8448.