Destination: College

Rules for learning to negotiate college life, especially for teens with ADHD.


Filed Under: ADHD and College, ADHD Time Management, ADHD Accommodations, 504s, IEPs, ADHD and the Law, ADHD and Money
ADHD in collge: Plan now for a successful freshman year. ADDitude Magazine

Are you ready to take that great leap into the unknown? Yes, we're talking about your college career. No matter how successful you were in high school, college presents new challenges. More freedom, more demands, larger classes, complex schedules, harder assignments, less structure - exhilarating, but overwhelming.

As always, the key to a smooth transition is planning and legwork. And the time to start is now, in the months and weeks before your freshman year begins.

Choosing and scheduling your first courses wisely will increase your chance of success well beyond the first semester. Rule number one: Make it easy. Save difficult classes for later semesters. Use this term to learn the ropes and build your college skills. You might consider a partial class load, if permitted. Remember, success is contagious: Learning to negotiate college life will give you the momentum you need for tougher classes and challenges ahead.

Schedule for success

  • Front-load your week. Schedule your hardest class for Monday, so you have the weekend to prepare. By Friday your mind will need a break - keep classes to a minimum, and schedule them early in the day.
  • Avoid early-morning and late-day classes. Give yourself the best chance to be alert, on time, and firing on all cylinders.
  • Make sure there is enough time between classes. That extra hour can be a lifesaver if you've forgotten an assignment or need a last-minute review.
  • Limit yourself to one difficult course per day. This will give you the best chance to prepare for class the night before.

Choose your teachers

Pick your professors as carefully as you choose your classes. Try to meet or speak by phone with each professor whose class you're considering. See if you like him, and if his teaching style matches your learning style. If you're willing to discuss your ADHD or learning disability, you can get a sense of whether he's willing to work with you. Let him know that you may request accommodations. If he seems inflexible or dismissive of your needs, you probably won't want him as a teacher.

If you can't get in touch with a professor, ask other students or inquire at the school's disabilities office. The staff will probably know if he's a good choice for a person who needs extra help.

Ask for accommodations

Did you need accommodations in high school - more time on tests, a quiet testing environment, a reader, additional tools? You will probably need them at college.

If you have a documented disability, you have a legal right to "reasonable accommodations." Call or visit your college disabilities office to learn what accommodations and resources are available. Some colleges require that you register with the office in advance. Sign up, even if you think you may not need assistance. That way, you'll have the option. Remember that accommodations aren't a crutch or an unfair advantage. They're meant to level the playing field and give you the best chance for success.

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