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Q&A: How Do I Get Updates on My College Student?

Question: Our family is very excited since my oldest child is getting ready to go to college for the first time. We want to make sure she has the supports she needs to be successful. As her parents, we want to keep communication between her college and us open the way we did while she was in high school. However, we heard that the school won’t send us her grades or contact us if there’s a problem. Is this true?

- College Dad in New York

Answer: With classes starting in about a month, now is the time for you and your daughter to discuss where midterm and end-of-semester grade reports will be sent. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA, parents don’t automatically receive notices on how their young adult is doing academically in college.

This often comes as a surprise to parents, especially parents who have worked with the high school to help their students affected by ADHD. Under FERPA, the college or university must have written permission from the student to release any information on the student’s academic record. Schools also have limited ability to notify parents if there is a mental health concern for the student. This means that often the first indication that their young adult is struggling is when the student fails or withdraws from a course.

“We know that challenges in executive function and emotional regulation make transitions all that more difficult for students with ADHD,” says Michele Oelking, director of the Academic Success Center at Tulane University. “Students with ADHD often seek help only after things aren’t going well. That means it’s closer to the midpoint of the semester before students seek help.”

You and your daughter need to talk about your expectations when it comes to being notified about her academic progress. Together you may decide that you will receive copies of grade reports during the midterm or just at the end of the year. You may also want to talk about notifications from the health office and counseling services and when you should be contacted if your daughter is struggling.

Most students will be offered a waiver to sign when they register for classes the first time or during college orientation. If she doesn’t receive or sign one at those times, your daughter can contact the registrar’s or dean’s office to sign a waiver for you to receive her grade reports and other notices. Your daughter may also need to sign a waiver with the office of disabilities or the student academic center for you to be notified and to share information on how to contact you if she is receiving academic assistance through those offices.

For more information on college expectations, check out our information on Succeeding in College with ADHD.

Are you looking for more tips on helping your young adult be prepared for the coming semester? Ms. Oelking has additional information and suggestions for parents and college students and tips for college.

Do you have a question about ADHD? Contact our helpline, Monday through Friday from 1-5 p.m., at (800) 233-4050 or visit Attention Connection Question & Answers.

This article appeared in ADHD Weekly on July 28, 2016.

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