Should Your ADHD Child Help Pay for College?

Should Your Child Pay for College? | The Being Well Center

image via Flickr, jamesjoel

Someone you know taking college expenses for granted?

Over the last 10 years, as we have seen increasing numbers of new patients enter our Confidence@College program, we have been shocked by the number of kids who take parental financial support for college expenses for granted.

Tuition, room and board, meal tickets, books, new computer, dorm furnishings, toiletries, laundry, pizza, and beer . . . It all adds up to the second biggest investment parents will make in their lives.  Most college-age kids we’ve met don’t really have a clue!

Parents sure do, and the expense is one of the major sources of angst when their kid heads off to college . . . “will he make good on this huge investment?”

Lack of finances is the number one reason for falling graduation rates in the U.S.

It’s easy for kids to be sheltered from the expensive reality of college when most parents see a college education or post-high school training as a necessity in today’s world and feel it is their responsibility to make it happen.  In today’s economy, large numbers of parents actually can’t fulfill this responsibility; in fact, lack of finances is the number one reason for falling graduation rates in the U.S.  Other more fortunate families take a “do whatever it takes approach”, including:

  • Work an extra job
  • Long-term savings plan
  • 529 accounts
  • Selling assets
  • Home equity loans
  • Grant or other aid from colleges
  • Gov’t sponsored loans
  • Hunt for scholarship opportunities
  • Gift from family and grandparents

Parents are writing the college essays for their children

More often than not, these financial efforts exclude their child.  At most, the parent has to nag him/her about completing an essay for a scholarship application.  A significant number of the parents we work with have actually written part or all of college essays out of the frustration or the need to meet a deadline!

Student loan crisis could be our next big financial disaster

Some parents set the expectation that their child will sign a promissory note and commit to paying back all of the loan money if they fail to graduate.  For most of the kids we see, this large negative consequence may strike some fear initially but is seen by most as something in the distant future that they’ll deal with if they have to.

Trouble is, without some type of degree or certificate the likelihood of getting a decent paying job that will make it possible to repay this obligation is small.  It should be no surprise that the highest rate of college loan defaults is in situations where the student fails to graduate.  Escalating college costs have pushed the student loan crisis into position to become our next big national financial disaster.

Should Your Child Help Pay for College? | The Being Well Center

image via Flickr, Charlie Kaijo

Take a baby step and ask your child to contribute financially

Many parents take a baby step in the right direction when they ask their child throw something into the pot.  Maybe it is a chunk of their savings account built up from mowing lawns, babysitting, having a part-time job, or from birthday and graduation gifts.

Kids often push back and negotiations often end in them having to cover the costs of their books or their monthly entertainment.

In our experience, this is rarely coupled with the establishment of a monthly budget for expenditures and we’ve seen many kids spend their contributions for the year in one month buying pizza and drinks for everybody at midnight, buying a new Xbox, or frequently going out with new friends to party!  Then, what are parents to do?  Certainly most give an irate lecture, but it’s pretty unrealistic for them to say that they’re not going to give their child any more money for the rest of the semester.

Make the student pay a “ticket of admission”

In reality, helping kids meet the demands of financial responsibility that come with college is a serious and complex issue that requires targeted attention and ongoing support particularly for students with ADD/ADHD.

We’ve found that one relatively simple, yet profound, step that parents can take is to set an expectation for the student to give the parents a set amount of money before the start of each college year.  Payment of some amount by the child represents the purchase price of a “ticket of admission” to the parent’s checkbook or signature on a loan.

The actual dollar amount of this down payment isn’t critical but it should be enough to stretch the student to some degree . . . something in the ballpark of $750-$1500 is about right.

For most students this means getting (and keeping) a full-time job (or two part-time jobs), saving money rather than impulsively spending it on food, entertainment, etc. and making sacrifices.  To save this amount of money and contribute it by a certain date requires some of the same life skills it takes to be successful at college.

Pay the price, feel the pride

When kids meet this expectation they feel the pride of accomplishment, feel more mature and take a more serious approach to college. 

This “skin in the game” often helps them choose the pain of self-discipline over the pain of regret when temptations arise to kick back rather than bear down.

It’s not a perfect solution but it moves things in the right direction.

Re-invest for your child’s future success

Some parents use the contribution as the starting point to establish a monthly budget for their child and develop a plan to redistribute the money back to the student in agreed amounts during the school year.

Others simply take the money, quietly invest it and then return it (with dividends) to the student when they earn a diploma . . . it can be the down payment on a car or condo/home to jump start their future!

Your Child Should Pay for College | The Being Well Center


At Confidence@College we have lots of strategies to help protect parents’ investment!  Our committed staff always has a “skin in the game” and goes the extra mile to ensure success.  Call us now to set up a Discovery Session and experience the confidence we can give you and your child.

Success for the Excessively Shy College Student

Risks for the Shy College Student | The Being Well CenterTemperament: The excessively shy, “slow-to-warm-up” college student

Most of us as parents worry about our kids taking too many risks when they head off to college.  With greater opportunity and with parental supervision gone, will they drink too much, say “yes” when a joint is passed around the room, try cocaine, engage in unprotected sex with someone they barely know?

On college campuses today, the opportunity to make such risky choices is certainly there particularly for the highly approachable, the overly outgoing, the seemingly self-assured or the highly impulsive student with ADHD.

Daunting Challenges for the Shy College Student

However, for those students who are temperamentally at the opposite end of the approach-withdrawal continuum, college can present challenges that are just as daunting.

Just think about the number of new things and people they have to face and find some way to “warm up to”: a roommate with different routines and customs, a different bed, sharing a shower and toilet with others, using a laundromat, different foods prepared in different ways, an arrogant professor, a large lecture hall, too much information to learn no matter how hard you study, classes scattered across a large campus, dealing with others who are drunk or high, a schedule that changes every day the lack of solitude, different kids in every class, and meeting new people who are different geographically, ethnically, racially, religiously and in their sexual orientation are but a few of the more common “new things” that all students encounter on campuses all across the country.

For some “slow-to-warm-up” individuals, it’s just a matter of time before they finally settle in and adjust . . . maybe after a few days or a couple of weeks. During this time their stomachs might flip a few more times, their mouths might be a bit drier, or their palms a bit sweatier.

Parents of these individuals can rest assured that they’ll also be taking a giant step backward from some of the other more scary new things that they will encounter on campus . . . at least initially.

When Shyness turns to Anxiety

However, for more extreme “slow-to-warm-up” individuals, the sudden newness on multiple fronts at college can be overwhelming and downright devastating.

Shyness can progress to social anxiety and extreme isolation.  Novel courses, new concepts, new ways of doing the familiar, unusual and confusing directions, one new thing after another, all can precipitate panic.  The thought of going to a professor, teaching assistant or someone down the hall who has the same class to ask for help is simply out of the question!  Unfortunately, since one day’s work builds on the previous day, it’s easy for them to quickly get behind the 8-ball with nowhere to turn.

Many respond by withdrawing even further . . . shutting it down and going to bed well before their roommate.  Out of sight out of mind.  Sleeping in and missing class.  Hanging out in their room eating junk food while obsessively playing video games or watching TV.  Lying to themselves (and you) about how it’s really going.

Helping Shy Students Toward Success

There’s actually lots that can be done to help the “slow-to-warm-up” student adjust to and succeed at college.

However, they first must recognize and accept this part of their nature.

We can’t change a student’s basic temperament, but we can help them identify where it places them at risk and then brainstorm ways to mange, cope and work around this potential barrier.

The first step is to take the appropriate Confidence@College screener to see if there are aspects of your child’s temperament that place him/her at risk for college failure.  If so, contact us so we can help start moving things along a path to success.

COMPARISONS: Self-Esteem in the College Student – It’s an inside job!

Life has taught most of us that thinking you can accomplish a task or reach a goal is half the battle.   There is little doubt that a strong self esteem and realistic self confidence can be a key to success in many of life’s endeavors.  Success at college is no exception.

c@c_whole_you_blog_comparisonsThe new demands that college presents to our kids require a significant degree of self confidence to successfully meet.  Academic challenges that are far beyond anything they have experienced before, meeting and establishing relationships with all types of new people from roommates to professors, advocating for themselves, remaining resolute and acting on their values, and being honest with themselves and us about how they are really doing  are a few of the biggies that require a strong self esteem.

It’s no wonder that as parents, we often go to great lengths to boost our child’s self esteem when it comes to college.  Encouraging her to “reach” for a prestigious school that will look good on the resume even though it stretches her capabilities or our finances too far.  Outfitting our child’s wardrobe and room with only the best in an attempt to ensure that he will fit in when he  arrives on campus.  Setting up bank accounts so that she always has plenty of spending money without ever establishing a budget.  Subtly promoting permissive attitudes about indulging in drinking so he fits in socially (i.e., “we know you’re going to do it so . . .”)

During the high school years ramping up to college, we (and teachers) may cut our kids breaks through easy grading or opportunities for “extra credit” to cover up an inadequate performance.  As a result, our child never has to face failure and come to grips with her strengths and weaknesses, thereby, limiting her ability to develop coping and compensating strategies.  The lack of coping strategies is compounded by many of us excessively structuring our child’s life, providing repeated reminders and hovering over them to foster success.  Accountability and its rewards are replaced with endless pep talks . . . “You’re the greatest… you can do it if you put your mind to it!”

These kinds of parental efforts provide short-term “feel goods” at best.  They fail to recognize self esteem and self confidence don’t come from pats on the back and external circumstances but are cultivated from within . . . when our child independently works hard, faces and overcomes barriers, meets a realistic expectation, and is able to proclaim, “I did it!”

So how can we promote the development of self esteem and self confidence in our college student?  Here are some simple steps:

  1. As early as possible, help our child to truly understand himself…to know his strengths as well as his weaknesses.  This involves staying tuned into our child’s academic and social life, and communicating regularly and honestly.
  2. Based upon an understanding of who our child is, help her to set realistic expectations academically, socially, and behaviorally.  This means setting expectations that are not too high or too low, but “just right” . . . ones that stretch her, maybe even involve taking a bit of a risk, but in the end are attainable with effort and hard work.
  3. Ensure that our child has a plan to meet the realistic expectations including the structure and unique supports he needs to succeed.
  4. Don’t expect perfection from the start.  Let go and allow for “practice” that might involve stumbling and falling some.  Be there to help her get back on her feet.  Debrief what happened and what went wrong.  We all learn the most about ourselves and what it takes to succeed when we are picking ourselves back up as compared to when we are cruising along smoothly.
  5. Brainstorm compensatory strategies by asking our child what he could have done, said, or thought differently to have the performance or situation turn out more successfully.  By taking the time to help him generate his own solutions rather than lecturing or dictating what he should do, we promote the development of effective problem solving skills…a cornerstone of self esteem and self confidence.
  6. To close the loop and help our child become accountable, we need to set limits and provide effective consequences when she fails to meet realistic expectations when she has the tools (i.e., plan) to do so.  Appropriate, short-term, negative consequences promote self reflection while threats, lectures, and name calling only stir up intensity, anger, resentment, self pity and fear; all barriers to success and the development of strong self esteem and self confidence.

For more of the “How To’s” check out our recently released Accommodations for Success guidebook and workbook.  Take the “First Things First” survey to see if you have enabling behaviors that are getting in the way of your child’s success.  “Letting go” is imperative no matter how hard or scary it seems.  Enabling only postpones the inevitable, usually at a much greater cost for everyone.  If you need more guidance and support, call our office and set up an appointment.  We’ll walk along with you and help make sure you’re helping your child to be an independent, self esteem grower!

NEUROMATURATION – ADHD and the Secrets of the “Freshman 15”

We’ve all heard about them… the dreaded “freshman 15!”   Good old dorm food where the only choices that taste good to you seem to be those with high fat and carbohydrate content.  A huge stash of of high calorie snacks only an arm’s reach away in your dorm room.  Late night delivery pizza or runs to the sub shop with your new found friends.  Beer!

It all adds up pretty quickly and many a parent has been shocked at semester break to see that their kid’s cheeks are a little bit fuller and their jeans a bit tighter.

c@c_whole_you_blog_neuromaturation

While most students face the challenge of avoiding the “freshman 15”, the task can be particularly daunting for the college student with ADHD.  They struggle to get up and out of bed in the morning, often at the last minute, skipping breakfast and making it to class just in the nick of time.  Lunch can also be a catch as catch can experience…something always gets in the way… too little time between classes, last minute cramming for a test, frisbee with friends, flirting with that cute guy from English class.  The brain interprets these  day long fasts as starvation and in response it slows down the metabolic rate so that even if they eat the normal number of calories for dinner (which rarely happens) all the extra calories are sent to the fat cells to prepare for starvation again tomorrow.  This is how eating less can actually contribute to weight gain!

ADHD individuals notoriously make poor food choices, eat impulsively and fail to exert portion control, and choose high calorie drinks when they are thirsty.  These unhealthy eating habits are even more likely to occur when Mom is no longer around to set limits and nag!  These concerns are magnified when the student moves out of the dorm and into an apartment.  Many don’t have much of an idea of how to prepare healthy meals so they don’t go grocery shopping with a meal plan in mind and instead rely on prepared food or frozen dinners that are often calorically dense!

Despite the best intentions, it’s hard to get to the fitness center for a workout and structured sports are gone for most.  Some colleges still mandate a physical education course or two for graduation but many don’t.  Free time is usually spent hanging out with friends playing video games and eating chips.

As the stresses mount during the semester,  many ADHD students turn to food as a self medicating coping strategy to either enhance their focus or to reduce their anxiety or depression.  One candy bar may do the trick for 20 minutes but then there is the crash and a need to “dose up” again!

This is all laid on a backdrop of an increasing awareness we have that ADHD is a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic.  While it may seem counterintuitive, we now know that “hyperactive” kids are at high risk for being overweight as adults.  Studies have shown that more than 40% of adults participating in weight management clinics have unrecognized or untreated ADHD!  In our experience, leaving home and heading off to college is the first step down the road to a lifetime struggle weight management.

For many, the slow steady progression toward obesity and all its challenges and risks begins with the “freshmen 15″…we all know that once it’s on it’s really hard to get off!

It doesn’t have to be this way…with a comprehensive success plan including a structured schedule for study time, a healthy daily routine for eating, exercise, sleep, and relaxation, targeted accommodations, and compliance with a proper medication regimen along with ongoing support from an experienced professional, ADHD students can experience success in the classroom AND in the other spheres of life!

Confidence@College means taking advantage of enriching experiences and relationships in order to acquire the tools, skills, and the habits to succeed at work, at home, and in health for a lifetime.  Call us today and set up a Discovery session so we can begin helping your child chart a personalized course for life success!

P.S.  If you’re not a college student but a parent with ADHD (or who thinks you may be) who can relate to these issues and struggles with weight management, there is help for you, too.  Contact the Being Well Center and ask about getting involved with our TRANSforming U Program.  Let us help you become a healthier U!

The Whole You: Identifying Barriers to Success @ College

In our Confidence@College program, like other clinical programs at the BWC, we always start by looking at The Whole Person first.  We accomplish this by surveying the individual’s TRANSACT Profile either through a screening tool or more extensive questionnaire.  TRANSACT is an acronym we use to summarize the key factors within the individual and his/her environment that interact with each to lead to success or failure.

This is the first in a series of 8 blogs that are presented to illustrate how unique aspects of a student’s TRANSACT Profile can serve as barriers to success at college.  We have selected one example for each of the TRANSACT factors.  We have tried to pick examples that might not be obvious at first blush but help illustrate the importance of systematically looking at The Whole Person when trying to identify at-risk students or figuring out why things went wrong.  Our screeners and questionnaires take a comprehensive look at all the possible contributors for each TRANSACT factor.

c@c_whole_you_blog_temperamentTemperament: The excessively shy, “slow-to-warm-up” college student

Most of us as parents worry about our kids taking too many risks when they head off to college.  With greater opportunity and with parental supervision gone, will they drink too much, say “yes” when a joint is passed around the room, try cocaine, engage in unprotected sex with someone they barely know?  On college campuses today, the opportunity to make such risky choices is certainly there particularly for the highly approachable, the overly outgoing, the seemingly self-assured or the highly impulsive student with ADHD.

However, for those students who are temperamentally at the opposite end of the approach-withdrawal continuum, college can present challenges that are just as daunting.  Just think about the number of new things and people they have to face and find some way to “warm up to”: a roommate with different routines and customs, a different bed, sharing a shower and toilet with others, using a laundromat, different foods prepared in different ways, an arrogant professor, a large lecture hall, too much information to learn no matter how hard you study, classes scattered across a large campus, dealing with others who are drunk or high, a schedule that changes every day the lack of solitude, different kids in every class, and meeting new people who are different geographically, ethnically, racially, religiously and in their sexual orientation are but a few of the more common “new things” that all students encounter on campuses all across the country.

For some “slow-to-warm-up” individuals, it’s just a matter of time before they finally settle in and adjust . . . maybe after a few days or a couple of weeks.  During this time their stomachs might flip a few more times, their mouths might be a bit drier, or their palms a bit sweatier.  Parents of these individuals can rest assured that they’ll also be taking a giant step backward from some of the other more scary new things that they will encounter on campus . . . at least initially.

However, for more extreme “slow-to-warm-up” individuals, the sudden newness on multiple fronts at college can be overwhelming and downright devastating.  Shyness can progress to social anxiety and extreme isolation.  Novel courses, new concepts, new ways of doing the familiar, unusual and confusing directions, one new thing after another, all can precipitate panic.  The thought of going to a professor, teaching assistant or someone down the hall who has the same class to ask for help is simply out of the question!  Unfortunately, since one day’s work builds on the previous day, it’s easy for them to quickly get behind the 8-ball with nowhere to turn.

Many respond by withdrawing even further . . . shutting it down and going to bed well before their roommate.  Out of sight out of mind.  Sleeping in and missing class.  Hanging out in their room eating junk food while obsessively playing video games or watching TV.  Lying to themselves (and you) about how it’s really going.

There’s actually lots that can be done to help the “slow-to-warm-up” student adjust to and succeed at college.  However, they first must recognize and accept this part of their nature.  We can’t change a student’s basic temperament but we can help them identify where it places them at risk and then brainstorm ways to mange, cope and work around this potential barrier.

The first step is to take the appropriate Confidence@College screener to see if there are aspects of your child’s temperament that place him/her at risk for college failure.  If so, contact us and set up a Discovery Session so we can help start moving things along a path to success.

Click here to download our Confidence@College screeners

Contact us to schedule a Discovery Session, and let us get to know you