ADHD in College

Bound for College?

10 tips to help college students with ADHD achieve academic, social and personal success.

college backpack teen adhd student
teen student with backpack

Whether you’re starting college next fall, just beginning the college application process, or are already enrolled in college, there are several things to keep in mind for a smooth academic ride — especially when attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and treatments come into play.

Your interests. Ask yourself, “What do I want to do more than anything else?” The answer should become your road map for choosing a school, a major — even specific courses. You’re more likely to earn good grades in a class you find interesting than in one that puts you to sleep.

How do you handle required classes that you find boring — or overly difficult? Wait a semester before tackling them — one at a time — until you have some experience, and support systems, behind you.

Talk with professors about your learning disability and see if they’re willing to work with you. Free tutoring may be available; if the class is especially difficult, start working with a tutor before you fall behind. If the course is unrelated to your major, you may be able to have it waived.

Of course, you should take your college studies seriously. But there’s no need to sacrifice involvement in sports, clubs, or other extracurricular activities you enjoy. Regular exercise is a great way to work off extra energy, unwind after a stressful day, and, of course, stay in shape. And whether it’s writing for the school paper or playing in the marching band, pursuing your interests will energize you and boost your confidence.

Your environment. Do you thrive in warm weather? Apply to schools in the South. Love the energy of a busy city? Stick with an urban campus.

Consider the size of the schools you look at. You might feel lost in a lecture hall that holds 300 students. In smaller classes, you’ll be drawn to the material, feel like an active participant, and be in a better position to ask for help, should you need it.

Do what you can to make your dorm room feel like home. If you prefer a minimalist look, leave your clutter behind. If you enjoy nature, consider bringing some plants and full-spectrum bulbs or a small indoor fountain. The more attuned you are to your environment, the more energized you’ll feel.

That’s also the case when it comes to studying. If you need quiet to do your best work, find a private room at the library. If you need noise and activity to help you focus, make yourself comfortable at a coffee house near campus.

Your roommates. To get started on the right foot, be totally honest on your roommate questionnaire. Are you messy? Do you stay up until 3 a.m. each night? Admit it. You’re not the only student with these habits, so frankness is your best bet for a good match. Even if you and your roommate don’t end up being best friends, you’ll at least have a shot at a peaceful co-existence. Single rooms are hard to come by, but you may be able to get one as part of your ADHD accommodations.

Seek like-minded friends through university organizations and clubs, whether you’re interested in saving the Earth or starting a corporation.

Your support system. One of the first things you should do after unpacking is to visit the office for students with disabilities. The professionals there understand your needs, and can help you put together an appropriate course schedule (no early morning classes, only one prerequisite class at a time, and so on), identify helpful professors, and put accommodations, such as extra time for exams, into place. They can also refer you to an ADHD coach, who can help you develop a successful study routine and build the organizational skills you’ll need throughout college.