College Admissions: It’s All About ADD

Home/Special Needs/College Admissions: It’s All About ADD

It’s February and time for the annual pandemic of ADD!

Aha, if you are thinking this story is either wacko or just another rant about Attention Deficit Disorder you are incorrect. This seasonal event starts in late December and can last until April and in some cases even into the summer. This ADD has to do with college admissions and only students truly immune from this syndrome are those that have had the joy of receiving an offer of admission from the college to which they applied via the Early Decision process.

The ADD in this case is Admitted, Deferred or Denied.  For the rest of those susceptible to ADD, the symptoms run the gamut: euphoria, confusion, indecision, depression, inertia, anxiety and many others. These terms are often taken as defining a student. Their young life’s “body of work” has gone into getting into that special college or university that just calls their name. Even though the word admitted sounds like a terrific outcome, it can present problems albeit different than the noncommittal deferred or the funereal tone of a denial. Let’s look at the components of ADD, see what they might mean and how you, the student, can make the best of their impact.


Okay, let’s say several colleges have said they see you as a match for their college and they have made you an offer of admission. Wow, now you’ve got choices! How you approach the choices can make the A in ADD a positive or not. The more intimately you get to know the colleges that accepted you, the easier it will be to make a decision. You will need to revisit the campus and use that opportunity to grill students and faculty with questions that you feel you MUST have answered in order to make an informed decision. Stay overnight, use online forums and social media to get the pulse of the college and see if it really meets your expectations both from a social and academic interest point of view.

Problem solved right? Not so fast my friend. Most families are bracing for the hard economic realities of today and college funding is an important, if not the most important, factor in making a college selection. This is the time to look VERY carefully at the TOTAL cost of attendance at each college that’s offered you a place in their incoming class. Along with your parents and perhaps an external advisor, you need to understand the world of loans, work/study, and budgeting time and money. Once you understand the REAL cost of attendance, then you will be in a position to make a decision on which college will be the total best fit for you AND your parents.


This is rough. It is agonizing. It is a traumatic event. It can crush you and take away your motivation…the list of negative things could go on and on. A denial is nothing more than what it implies: the college did not see you as a fit and it let you know so that you could move on to consider other possibilities. It is how YOU take the denial that is most important. It is okay to cry, to grieve, to be angry, to think about telling the college how sorry they are going to be for not taking you and so on… You are now at a pivotal point in your development of coping skills that will be a part of the formation of the future person you will become. Go through the Kubler-Ross psychological steps of the loss: the first being-guess what? : Denial, then Anger (no problem there right?), Bargaining(I’ll do ANYTHING to change this outcome), Depression (it’s okay to feel bad, you’re human) and then most importantly Acceptance.

Acceptance (amazing how these college admission words keep coming up!) of the result allows you to move on. Moving through the stages quickly will get you focused in the right direction instead of playing the “If only I”: woulda, coulda, shoulda blame games. You can now look at your other choices and if you really look carefully you’ll find some wonderful things in the college that DOES want you on their campus.


This is the beast of ADD because it leaves you in limbo. This is your absolute first choice in colleges. You compare yourself to others that were admitted and don’t see how they could have been chosen over you. You do the math based on what is the probability of getting in as an admitted student if you were originally deferred. You feel panicky because you do not have the path cleared for you like the admitted or denied student. Well, DON’T let paralysis creep into the picture. You must put a plan in place that deals with the possible outcomes and you must do it right away.

First, let the college know that you still have a strong desire to attend. You have established some level of email communication with the admissions officer that is responsible for your geography, right? Let them know how you feel. If you get ANY good news, academic or otherwise, that might shed new light or reinforce a positive bit of information about yourself, make sure that the college is informed. To do this you can use your email contact or if appropriate, your college counselor, but don’t be a pest and email every day. Once you have done these things you must move on to make other plans. Be prepared to go through the same grief steps of those that were denied and then generate and direct your enthusiasm on to your next college. Lighten up and make the best of a (not so really) bad situation. Doing nothing is NOT an option and fretting will only take a toll on your mental and physical health. You must put yourself into a position where you can envision a positive outcome NO MATTER what happens.

For behavioral ADD, people are now asked to use the acronym ADHD instead of ADD. So for this rendition of ADD let’s add the “H”. In this case, H stands for HOPE. Not hope like winning a lottery, but hope in terms of optimism, future promise, and the filling of expectations. While the content of your ADD may be immutable, the way you hold and interpret and act on the context will define how you can handle this form of ADD.


About the Author:

Chip Law
Chip Law is an IECA Professional Member and an Educational Consultant located in Charleston, South Carolina. He helps students and adults define their career path and refine their approach to the job market.