Why I won’t push my ADHD college kid to also get a job. 

Today’s post might be controversial, but I’m going there anyway. While I know it is common for college students to have jobs, I won’t be asking that of any of my kids. Is this because they have a huge trust fund? No. They may be taking out loans to cover college costs before it is over. However, I have already offered they can move back in with me and my husband for a year or two to work and pay off any loans they need. 

Looking at the workload objectively.

The reason I won’t push them to get a job though, is that success in college takes a huge amount of focus and work and for people with executive function challenges, adding a job into the mix is just asking too much.  College students generally take between 4 and 6 classes per semester. Each of those classes has about 3 hours of in-class time per week and about double that of study time required to do well. This means that if you take 15 credits a semester, you spend 15 hours in class and another 30 doing the homework and studying for the class. That means that that 15-hour course load is really a 45-hour week. 

Now, if your student has ADHD or autism, or is otherwise neurodiverse, they may have trouble organizing their study time. They may need more than those 30 hours per week to stay on top of their schoolwork. They may also have times they get distracted and get behind and have to pull very long hours to get caught back up. It isn’t unusual for a student taking a challenging course load to spend FAR more time on classwork, especially around midterms or finals. 

But some kids do work.

Yes, for some students, the skills of time management are easy. For those students, they can work a part-time job and still handle classes. The most successful students who work are those who find flexible jobs that allow them to choose their hours so that they don’t conflict with classes or their study times. 

Neurodiverse students may be able to handle a job in college if it is a good fit. However, what I am saying, is that I don’t expect that of my kids. If they feel they can handle a job and school, more power to them. But I believe if we are paying for a college education, my kid should put their effort into that. The financial benefits of the right degree and a good job post-college are worth the sacrifice. 

Reducing unnecessary stress.

I also think it is likely that my kids will find jobs with typical work hours after college. However, most jobs available to college students are some form of shift work that requires a lot of negotiating with your boss and boundary setting which can be hard to do as a young person.

How do you handle it if your boss pressures you to work more hours than you can comfortably do while in college? This kind of stress can cause a lot of anxiety for the neurodiverse who want to please their boss and don’t want to admit they need more study time than a typical student. So, I am not going to put them in the position to have to do that.

What about jobs after college?

Do I worry that not making my students work now will make it difficult for them to hold down a job later? No, not at all. Attending college and doing well is actually more complex than most jobs.

While a college student, you have to navigate learning huge amounts of new information. You may need to find friends to study with in all those classes. You also have to study for tests, write papers, and create various projects at a completely inconsistent rate. Each of your professors doesn’t care if you have a paper due in every class you take on Tuesday, making it extremely hard to get them done.

In contrast, most jobs for new grads expect them to do one thing at a time. They also don’t necessarily expect you to manage your own time with the level required of a challenging degree.

When my kids graduate, I’m confident that all the skills I have given them plus those they learn in college will make them successful adults. While society may say that they are adults at 18, I know that my neurodiverse kids need a little more time to get ready for the adult world, and that is okay. 

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About the Author

nimble_asset_Laura-in-floral-shirt-with-treesLaura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator, and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.

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