U of ADHD: 14 College Hacks for Neurodivergent Students
Delayed and developing executive functions sometimes prevent students with ADHD from getting to class consistently, studying reliably, and planning effectively. These strategies will help.
The transition to college is really exciting — and really anxiety-provoking. Academic expectations and demands on executive functions both spike as teens begin to independently steer all sorts of new responsibilities — from laundry to shopping for shampoo. Without a parental safety net, life can feel overwhelming.
After helping countless college students with ADHD compensate for weak executive functioning, I’ve discovered a host of hacks that reliably help neurodivergent undergrads navigate new challenges, both big and small. Here are some of my favorites.
Attending Class with ADHD
- Schedule your classes back-to-back so there is no time or excuse to pop by your dorm room or apartment, where you might get off track by napping, texting, or visiting with friends.
- Request a meeting with every teacher at the beginning of the semester. Whether they’re teaching a 400-person lecture or a 10-person lab, most professors are happy to put a face to a name.
- Remember: If you want to pass, go to class. It’s simple but true.
Studying with ADHD
- Schedule time for homework and studying. If you’re taking 16 credit hours, plan on 16 homework hours.
- Use colored fonts to break up and sort study guides. If you prefer print, use colored index cards.
- Keep yourself accountable. Body double with your best friend over Face Time so you can both type up your term papers and resist distractions together. Schedule a meeting with your professor that serves as a deadline. Experiment to see what works best for you.
- Stock up on erasable gel pens in different colors, which help commit information to memory. The smooth gel provides satisfying sensory feedback and if you make a mistake, no worries.
Planning with ADHD
- Shower at night. Mornings are usually too rushed.
- Fill up your gas tank when it dips to a quarter full.
- Get automatic toiletry “subscriptions” for soap, shampoo, shaving cream, anything you use regularly.
- Dedicate a clean space for work, even if the rest of your room is a huge mess.
- In your car’s glove box, lock an extra medication dose — stimulant, allergy pill, whatever you take regularly.
Sleeping with ADHD
- Use a white, green, or brown noise machine to get a good night’s sleep (and block out dorm noise).
- If you’re having trouble waking up, try a sunrise clock, which activates your neurohormones before your eyes open by gradually brightening the room.
College Hacks for ADHD: Next Steps
- Read: Rules for Negotiating College Life with ADHD
- Read: 29 Accommodations for College Students with ADHD
- Read: Conquering College
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