Think you can get into a top-10 school? Take our chance-me calculator... if you dare. 🔥


Last updated March 22, 2024

Every piece we write is researched and vetted by a former admissions officer. Read about our mission to pull back the admissions curtain.

How to Write a College Essay About ADHD

Key Takeaway

When writing a college essay about ADHD, consider three approaches: using ADHD to understand trends and show growth, highlighting the positive aspects of ADHD, or emphasizing how ADHD enhances your empathy. Choose an approach that lets you discuss an important part of your life while showcasing your strengths and creating a cohesive narrative.

ADHD and ADD are becoming more prevalent, more frequently diagnosed, and better understood.

The exact number of college students with ADHD is unclear with estimates ranging wildly from just 2% to 16% or higher.

Regardless of the raw numbers, an ADHD diagnosis feels very personal, and it is not surprising that many students consider writing a college essay about ADHD.

If you are thinking about writing about ADHD, consider these three approaches. From our experience in admissions offices, we’ve found them to be the most successful.

First, a Note on the Additional Information Section

Before we get into the three approaches, I want to note that your Common App personal statement isn’t the only place you can communicate information about your experiences to admissions officers.

You can also use the additional information section.

The additional information section is less formal than your personal statement. It doesn’t have to be in essay format, and what you write there will simply give your admissions officers context. In other words, admissions officers won’t be evaluating what you write in the additional information section in the same way they’ll evaluate your personal statement.

You might opt to put information about your ADHD (or any other health or mental health situations) in the additional information section so that admissions officers are still aware of your experiences but you still have the flexibility to write your personal statement on whatever topic you choose.

Three Ways to Write Your College Essay About ADHD

If you feel like the additional information section isn’t your best bet and you’d prefer to write about ADHD in your personal statement or a supplemental essay, you might find one of the following approaches helpful.

1) Using ADHD to understand your trends in high school and looking optimistically towards college

This approach takes the reader on a journey from struggle and confusion in earlier years, through a diagnosis and the subsequent fallout, to the present with more wisdom and better grades, and then ends on a note about the future and what college will hold.

If you were diagnosed somewhere between 8th and 10th grade, this approach might work well for you. It can help you contextualize a dip in grades at the beginning of high school and emphasize that your upward grade trend is here to stay.

The last part—looking optimistically towards college—is an important component of this approach because you want to signal to admissions officers that you’ve learned to manage the challenges you’ve faced in the past and are excited about the future.

I will warn you: there is a possible downside to this approach. Because it’s a clear way to communicate grade blips in your application, it is one of the most common ways to write a college essay about ADHD. Common doesn’t mean it’s bad or off-limits, but it does mean that your essay will have to work harder to stand out.

2) ADHD as a positive

Many students with ADHD tell us about the benefits of their diagnosis. If you have ADHD, you can probably relate.

Students tend to name strengths like quick, creative problem-solving, compassion and empathy, a vivid imagination, or a keen ability to observe details that others usually miss. Those are all great traits for college (and beyond).

If you identify a strength of your ADHD, your essay could focus less on the journey through the diagnosis and more on what your brain does really well. You can let an admissions officer into your world by leading them through your thought processes or through a particular instance of innovation.

Doing so will reveal to admissions officers something that makes you unique, and you’ll be able to write seamlessly about a core strength that’s important to you. Of course, taking this approach will also help your readers naturally infer why you would do great in college.

3) ADHD helps me empathize with others

Students with ADHD often report feeling more empathetic to others around them. They know what it is like to struggle and can be the first to step up to help others.

If this rings true to you, you might consider taking this approach in your personal statement.

If so, we recommend connecting it to at least one extracurricular or academic achievement to ground your writing in what admissions officers are looking for.

A con to this approach is that many people have more severe challenges than ADHD, so take care to read the room and not overstate your challenge.

Key Takeaways + An Example

If ADHD is a significant part of your story and you’re considering writing your personal statement about it, consider one of these approaches. They’ll help you frame the topic in a way admissions officers will respond to, and you’ll be able to talk about an important part of your life while emphasizing your strengths.

And if you want to read an example of a college essay about ADHD, check out one of our example personal statements, The Old iPhone.

As you go, remember that your job throughout your application is to craft a cohesive narrative—and your personal statement is the anchor of that narrative. How you approach it matters.



Liked that? Try this next.