Applying to Law School with ADHD

If you’re someone who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you might be wondering how to actually stay organized in the law school application process. How do you get through this process even when you know our ADHD superpower starts superpowering? 

According to Forbes, an estimated 8.7 million adults have ADHD. Approximately 366.3 million adults worldwide have symptomatic ADHD with another 139.8 million adults worldwide having persistent ADHD from childhood. ADHD is commonly characterized by short attention span, impulsivity, fidgeting, disorganization, and trouble multitasking. While ADHD can be seen as a disability or setback, it is really a superpower (for example: hyperfocus). You are no different from any other student applying to law school. Here are some tips and tricks to help control one’s ADHD while applying to law school.

ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in Black, non-Hispanic children (12%) than white children (10%), Hispanic children (8%) and non-Hispanic children (3%). As first generation and minority law applicants, start by getting a diagnosis from your doctor or by taking free online assessments.

Women in general are underdiagnosed with ADHD and black students in general are underdiagnosed with ADHD. More specifically, black women are some of the most underdiagnosed when it comes to ADHD. Women, because we tend to have masking traits. And it presents itself sometimes as anxiety and depression. Black students are often, especially if they have a type hyperactive, labeled as having behavioral issues or other sorts of things. Which is why a lot of people are often underdiagnosed with ADHD. This is why it is so important to get diagnosed because accommodations can be made for you. Click here for an article about how to get accommodations on the LSAT.

Focusing techniques

These are mentally stimulating activities that can help those with ADHD stay on the task at hand, these techniques take practice, insight, and strategy

  • Using fidget toys
  • Listening to audiobooks
  • Meditation
  • Taking walks
  • Create tasks lists
  • Identify triggers and avoid them
  • Go with your flow — not just the flow.
  • Set aside planning time (can be 1 minute, 5 minutes, or 40)
  • Other positive distractions- dance break, small art project

Going through the law school application process with ADHD can be really difficult, but it doesn’t have to be unbearable and it doesn’t have to be incompatible with your success in this process. This is your invitation to talk to someone about the symptoms that you’ve had for a while without actually talking to a doctor or therapist.

Three things are most needed if you are applying to law school with ADHD:

  1. A clear timeline and deadlines.
  2. An organized plan of attack, like a curriculum
  3. An accountability partner

Clear Timeline and Deadlines

You need a timeline and deadlines. You want to try to set an internal deadline for yourself to have your application materials done. Having a buffer of at least one or two weeks in advance will prevent you from pushing the panic button. By doing this, you also give yourself more time to go through life and other challenges, circumstances, and obstacles. For example, let’s say it’s the second week of September. You want to apply to law school in October and deadlines are due at the end of the month. Then you want to make sure that your law school applications are in during October. Try to set an internal deadline for yourself to have your application materials done by mid-September or early October. Cool. This means that you must ensure you are done taking the LSAT in August.

It takes students about four months to do all of their law school application materials well, sometimes more. We can make it happen, but when we’re planning, we want to give ourselves a lot of time. So, four to six months from mid-September is March. That is like the most relaxed timeline, and then you want to start to form some deadlines. I want to have my personal statement done this day. This specific date is when I want to have all of these things done. When you start working with us, we have an organized spreadsheet that lays out a specific timeline with dates on it and the steps to follow to complete each step.
When you have ADHD, it’s harder to have one big deadline. That is why it is important to create an organized plan of attack.

Organized Plan of Attack

You want to have a curriculum, like an order and a process. Establish when you’re going to complete your outline when you’re going to write the first draft of your personal statement, when you’re going to write the second draft of your personal statement, when you’re going to write the first draft of your diversity statement.

Consider questions such as: How long is it really going to take me to brainstorm? Do I need two weeks? How long is it really going to take me to write a draft? Do I need two or three weeks? How long is it really going to take me to research all the supplemental essays? How long is it really going to take me to do the scholarship essays? How long is it really going to take me to do the edits? Am I going to do it myself, am I going to work with someone, am I going to work with an advisor? How long does it take for me to get the edits back?

When you actually look at a timeline with a calendar, you can visualize your steps and start to put up buffers with your deadlines. You can’t just say you’re going to write your personal statement and it appear on your laptop screen. You have to have a curriculum. If you have taken our four-week course on how to master your personal and diversity statement, there’s a whole plan laid out there for you. The whole point is for the application process to be stress-free and as smooth as possible.

You have to have some sort of order. How is your brainstorming method going to lead to the outlining method? Outlining is so important. It’s a plan for your essay that establishes organization and structure, which you absolutely need. You need organization and structure for your whole process. We have a planned, systematic brainstorming, then a planned systematic outlining process that leads to an essay that is planned and organized systematically, right? Each one of these things begets the other. You need to have a curriculum for following that. The same process is necessary for your diversity statements. You need to know what order you’re writing your supplemental essays in, look at things like early action and early decision dates, if that applies to you, and scholarship dates.

If you’re still confused or need more specific guidance, we have free guides on how to craft your personal statement, your diverse statement, and the entire application process. All of those free guides also have the curriculum and the plan. Without that structure, things tend to fall apart a bit. And that kind of brings me to the third point, which is the accountability.

Find an Accountability Partner

Once you have your timeline, your plan of attack, and you get them both aligned, who is going to hold you accountable? You need to have an accountability partner. It could be a parent, a sibling, a best friend, a spouse. It could be us and meeting with one of our advisors. It could be another person who is applying. You could create a little accountability group, get together, and start the process at the same time. You schedule the deadlines and check in with each other.

Whoever it is, they need to hold you to a high standard and know the curriculum, the plan, the timeline, and the dates that go with that plan. This partner is not here to judge you but to recognize due dates and keep you on track. Their responsibility is to help you keep the commitments that you made to yourself.

They are also there to help you in other aspects of life. For example, say your room has become cluttered and disorganized but you don’t want to clean because one of your deadlines is due the next day. This is the time to ask for help from someone in your support system. They consider the question, “What can we do to lighten your stress load?” And they come over and clean your room to help you. That’s a real friend and it takes a village of real friends to help you stay on point.

If you have ADHD, please make sure that you’re getting accommodations for the LSAT exam. Law schools do not know unless you tell them in your addendum that you require accommodations. It would help you to have 50% more time on the LSAT exam, and I can’t think of a single person who’s not benefited by having more time on the LSAT exam, especially if they have ADHD. A form from your medical provider or doctor with the medical certification is mandatory to receive accommodations. These accommodations extend beyond applications and into law school as once in school, you can receive support during the bar exam. You are entitled to those and you should take them. You shouldn’t not take something that you’re entitled to because of any stigmas or preconceived notions.