Help a recently diagnosed ADHD college student fix-up her transcript, apply to university, and get on with her life?
February 7, 2010 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Help a recently diagnosed ADHD college student fix-up her transcript, apply to university, and get on with her life?

I'm a 24-year-old college student. I spent the past few years struggling with crippling depression and the last year or so scraping by in community college (read: my transcript is littered with multiple withdrawals, hardship withdrawals, and no credits granted) before I was finally diagnosed with severe ADHD. I'm on meds now, and holy crap, they changed my life. Since then, I have taken 3 quarters of hardcore science/lab classes, and my grades are really good (3.6+). I'm working hard and learning a lot. However, I'm starting to look into transferring to four-year universities and I don't know what to do about my somewhat bipolar transcript. (In retrospect, I probably should have dropped out of school for a while, but at the time, not trying to do anything seemed even more pathetic than being depressed.)

There is an appeals process at my school, but your grade can only be changed for up to a year after the class, which is somewhat of an issue for me. Also, your appeal has to be done through the professor, and there's one in particular that I'm simply terrified to discuss this with. I'm curious as to any advice any of you might have -- my therapist suggested that I have my psychiatrist write a letter to the Dean of Students? There is a Learning Disabilities office at my school, but I haven't needed their help as far as note-taking services/test time extension/etc, and I'm not sure exactly what they could do for me in terms of helping me advocate for myself.

I'm freaking out about all of this stuff. I'd be so grateful for any advice and/or personal experiences you can offer up, either here or by e-mailing me at Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Education (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Contact the Learning Disabilities office. This is what they do! Talk to someone there and see what they suggest. Perhaps take in letters from both your therapist and your psychiatrist. That would certainly lend credibility to your case.
posted by cooker girl at 12:57 PM on February 7, 2010

Don't sweat it. From the perspective of an academic dean (the people who kick people out and then let them back in), they're most concerned that you a) know what your problem is and b) have taken steps to manage and correct it.

In a transfer situation, you should probably have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or above, at least at my (major public) university. But your continued progress is a great start. You should also include letters from your professors and perhaps a counselor or doctor.

Even though you haven't needed help so far, do contact the LD office just to make sure you're on the right track, particularly with the increased/different workload at a four-year school. Then, if you have a few ideas of where you might want to go, make initial contacts there. Then you can confidently tell the admissions folks that you're not only in control of what's going on now but have prepared for some unforeseen circumstances if they come up.

LOTS of people go through this, and I'm so glad you've found it out while you've been able to do something about it and move forward. I think that as long as you're honest and show some diligence -- which it looks like you're doing -- you'll find that people are very willing to help.

Good luck!
posted by Madamina at 1:03 PM on February 7, 2010

Given your much improved grades and documented disability, I really doubt you will have a problem getting into university. I think the advice to contact your college's disabilities services office is excellent, since that is their area of expertise--not just helping students with their learning issues, but also helping them navigate the bureaucracy of the post-secondary system.

Some people are less than willing to see ADHD the way you do, so you might face some resistance with your profs.

I teach at a college and I have students with diagnosed ADHD and other medical issues that need accommodation. I am very sympathetic to students, and I work with them and the disabilities services people to provide effective accommodations. However, I would be very hard pressed to change a grade for a course that finished over a year ago. Final grades are based on the work the student did during the course, and if that work wasn't completed, or did not meet the standards for passing, I can't simply go back and change that. Even if it now becomes clear that there was a medical reason the student didn't turn in work or wasn't able to show competence with the material, I can't go back and change the grade without the student redoing the work--retaking the course, essentially. It has nothing to do with a lack of willingness on my part to acknowledge the real and serious nature of ADHD.

OP, I think trying to appeal your grades through your profs would be too stressful for you and in all honesty, probably futile. You'll be better off going with the transcripts you've got, along with letters from the disabilities services people and medical documentation.

Good luck and congratulations!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:30 PM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

State university person here with a slightly different perspective.

Many transfer students, even most of them, have stories about starting out poorly in school, then straightening things out, and finally beginning to succeed. It's going to be a familiar narrative to the admissions people, and they will see your recent success as a sign of your growth as a person. (It's the transcripts that start out well and then decline that raise red flags.)

Three consecutive terms of high grades in demanding courses: that is a great indicator that you are now on track. I wouldn't worry too about the older grades: they're now far in the past. What matters is whether you're ready for university now, in the present.

I would be cautious about sending any medical/psych info or letters to an admissions office unless they specifically ask for this kind of information. Admissions officers want to know about your current academic potential, and your rec letters should be from people in a position to address that (recent teachers). Sob stories to excuse a low cumulative GPA are not going to help your cause, especially if you try to bypass the admissions staff by sending letters to the Dean. I'm sorry to be blunt, but angling for special snowflake status, which is how letters to the Dean would come across, is not a good admissions strategy.

Your application should be mostly about your skills and your ambitions, not your past difficulties. Make it positive -- you have a lot to be positive about!

Most applications will allow you to write about hardships you have overcome, or they will ask you to explain any low grades on your transcript. That's where you can mention how you have dealt with ADHD. Otherwise, it's best to keep your medical and psychological history out of the admissions office.
posted by philokalia at 5:00 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

OOF. It helps to read the question carefully: Now I see your query about letters to the Dean had to do with pursuing grade appeals at your current school. (Not necessary, don't waste your time.) Sorry for my inattention. Good luck!
posted by philokalia at 5:39 PM on February 7, 2010

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