Choosing the College That's Right for You
"The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life." -Plato
Jones raised the cup to his lips, took a deep breathe, and imbibed of the wine. "You have chosen wisely" said the centurion guard to Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade. Jones drank of the cup and lived. To Indiana's enemy, right after he drank from a different cup, "You have chosen poorly" said the same guard just before he crumbled into a pile of dust.
While choosing a college isn't necessarily quite that live-or-die, your decision is very important to your future success. College is the platform that springboards you into your future. And it cannot be overstated how important it is to chose the right school as an ADD student. A proper fit will ensure a smoother transition, greater success, and helps build a momentum to carry you through the college years and beyond. With ADD, a mediocre choice-for example, choosing a school where professors are unavailable or do not believe in ADD--can create huge impediments to success, both in and out of the classroom. Choose poorly and you might trip and bounce headfirst off the springboard and onto the cement.
One school, no matter how great, is not right for everyone. Which college to attend is a very individual decision based on your interests, needs, and comfort. So in this chapter we'll look at four steps to choosing schools. We'll walk you through the process step-by-step to keep you from getting lost or falling off the deep end. As ADDers we often find ourselves frozen in indecision because of our perfectionist traits and fear of messing things up. But the biggest folly when it comes to choosing a school is leaving the decision up to others, or waiting until the last minute or even letting deadlines pass.
So now's your chance-hopefully, there's still quite a bit of time before you need to decide. Even if you're in your junior year, it's really time to get cracking. And if you're a senior, there's no time to spare. So let's get busy!
Step One: Who Are You?
Do you know what subject you'd like to study, or what field you're headed for? Few high school students do. But we ADDers more than anyone need to understand and narrow their interests: They lose motivation if they can't find courses that excite them. Consider taking a skills or interest assessment exam so you can focus on applying to the kinds of schools that will fan your passions. Your guidance counselor may be able to administer an assessment. If you can't determine an academic focus, stick to liberal arts schools with broad ranges of programs, courses, and activities to sample from until you find one that holds your attention.
As well as their academic programs, you should also determine what kind of size, location, atmosphere, scholastic and extra-curricular activities, etc. would suit you best. And, of course, there's the matter of the school's resources for ADD students.
What is fun for you? If you could wave a magic wand and be anywhere you want to be in five or ten years, where would you be, and what would you be doing? Would you be acting in Hollywood? Designing computer games for the latest Playstation? Perhaps you'd be writing for the Chicago Tribune, or traveling the world in search of stories for National Geographic? Would you be working for GreenPeace, your favorite religious organization, or another non-profit?
College is your chance to make any of these dreams a reality. Starting college is like being born all over again. Who you are, what you want to do, and where you want to go with your life is completely open to you. If you focus (and here's where this book can help!) work hard, and believe in yourself, college is the beginning of accomplishing everything you want in life. There's only one trick: You have to figure out exactly what it is you want, and then you can work on how you want to get there.
What's required of you in college is doing what is fun and what you love with an eye on parlaying your hobby into your career. Ever notice how doing what you love allows your mind to expand, your focus to grow, and for you to do your best work? Whether it's playing Nintendo, soccer, the Tuba, or studying science or literature, doing what you love helps you stay focused and achieve greatness. You can see the importance of choosing a school with courses or programs that excite you.
As ADDers, we have a habit of letting adrenaline drive our choices for the future. This initial excitement can wear off quickly and leave you with the frustrating reality of a new class, job, car, or relationship that you just don't think is right for you. Think about your school choices ahead of time, and try to think past the initial excitement. What will things look like a month, a year, even three years from now? Do they offer enough courses or types of courses to keep you interested? Will the winter cold crush you? How about stifling summer heat? Try and get past the initial rush of enthusiasm-what's left behind after it passes?
You need to focus on what's really captivating to you about a college, because when the going gets tough, you need to love what you're doing or you'll lose interest and focus. But if courses seem more like play than work, you'll stick through it no matter what. If you're into electronics and are building robots in class, it doesn't matter if you're still in the lab at 2 am, you're having a party! If you're into the law, and you're burning the midnight oil for a mock constitutional trial on Friday, you'll do anything to prepare. And if you're into the environment, and it requires checking field experiments at 6 in the morning every day for the next two months, you'll find a way to get it done. Do what you love and the world will open up for you.
The Critical Criteria
While there is no one type of school that's right for all of us, there are many criteria you can use to make an informed decision. And let's face it, making big decisions is often difficult for us-we're impulsive, prone to changing our minds, and if the process is complex we often give up in frustration.
So here's where you begin. Ask yourself these critical questions and be honest in your responses.
1. How much of a struggle has ADD been, and how much have others helped me to overcome my challenges?
2. How mature am I in dealing with my ADD, and how willing am I to seek help?
3. Where do I want to go in life--what do I enjoy studying and doing? What do I love to do and find interesting, exciting, or stimulating?
4. Where do I see myself in 5, 10 or 20 years?
5. What are my best skills?
6. How independent am I?
These questions can give you a good grasp on how much aid a potential school needs to have in place to help you manage your ADD, what kinds of classes to focus on, and possible careers to work toward.