Success Stories

Struggling Academically Due to ADHD? Modern States May Be Your Answer

For some students, success through Modern States is about more than saving money.

Such is the case for John Bonar, a high school dropout who turned to the College Board’s college-level examination program (CLEP) upon returning to college as an adult learner in need of a career-advancing degree.

Passing CLEP exam scores are accepted as credit at more than 2,900 colleges and universities, and Bonar’s first Google search on them led him to Modern States and our free online collection of college-professor-led courses that help prepare people for the CLEPs. We also pay the $89 CLEP exam fee of any student who completes a course, as well as any test center proctoring fees.

“I signed up that night and started doing the online courses, and they’re fantastic,” Bonar, 39, said in an interview. “I love how each chapter section has its own mini-test, a quiz. That really helps so that you know you’re really picking up the knowledge or can go back.”

As a 1990s high schooler, Bonar couldn’t pass an introductory computer class even though he was already an accomplished programmer and taking care of the school’s own computers.

Overcoming ADHD

His issue? He has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD. The classes Bonar took in high school, and for a brief time in community college, weren’t too hard for him. Rather, they were too unstimulating, creating lack of focus and debilitating procrastination.

“Things like having to go do a history class — as a history buff — was not something easy for me to do, and I was not successful,” Bonar said. “ADHD exacerbated things because when I was bored, I wouldn’t pay attention, I wouldn’t take notes, I’d miss assignment deadlines because they weren’t engaging. The only thing I did really well on were the tests.”

Unfortunately, in a traditional school setting, passing tests does not necessarily equate to passing grades. So, he floundered, and then left.

“Without a degree and having only a GED, a lot of roles were beyond my reach,” said Bonar. “At one point, I was doing gig economy jobs, putting in 70,000 miles a year driving around fixing computers, printers, network installs and that kind of stuff. It was not a good life.”

Bonar got a break in 2011, when he was hired by a multinational information technology systems company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s been a great match, though Bonar said he eventually capped out in his career progression because he didn’t have a bachelor’s degree in a relatable STEM field. When a new corporate owner offered an employee scholar program that paid for college, he jumped on the opportunity.

32 Free Credits

Without the burden of assignments and other traditional school requirements that always kept him from success, Bonar breezed through eight Modern States general-education courses and passed the corresponding CLEPS, earning 32 credits that transferred to Dakota State University, allowing him to focus on technology classes that truly excited him.

In August 2020, he graduated Dakota State with an associate’s degree in Network and Security Administration — with highest honors. This May, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Cyber Operations — summa cum laude, with a minor in Network and Security Administration and a Center of Excellence in IT Leadership.

“If I still had to be working on my general education classes, I’d still be working on my associate’s degree,” said Bonar, now an information systems security engineer. “With the degree it opens me up into the engineering job bands. My income potential now can significantly increase.”

As a philanthropy focused on making college education more accessible, Bonar’s story is a reminder that for many, getting over the hump isn’t just about the money — even when a degree leads to more of it. There are so many unique stories out there, and we could not be more appreciative of Bonar’s willingness to share his own.

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