ADHD in College

Common College Questions — Answered!

You’re concerned about your child’s next big step: college. Here’s advice from ADDitude’s learning experts for your academic concerns.

high school college studying

Your child’s a young adult now, leaving home — but that doesn’t mean you’ve stopped worrying. Let ADDitude’s experts ease your mind about this next big educational challenge.


Q: Is there some technique or strategy to help my son with math? I thought there would be lots of things on the market, but I can’t find anything. Any thoughts?

A: Young adults with ADHD are developmentally behind their non-ADHD counterparts. They can achieve the same level of success, but that may come later than for those without ADHD. This can be important to remember in subjects that require skills that build on each other, like math. Often, a bright student can get by, but, when faced with more complex challenges, he discovers that a review of basics, such as multiplication facts or percentages, may be necessary. Many students with ADHD have executive function deficits, which include slow processing speed and difficulty with working memory, both of which are necessary for doing math.

It is important to have your son evaluated and identified as having a disability when he registers for classes. He should work with the Office for Students with Disabilities to get needed supports put into place for ADHD or related conditions, which may include a disability in math. It is not a matter of what tools or strategies are available as much as what can be done to meet his learning needs. Seeking a tutor or coach helps. -Pam Esser


Q: My son has trouble prioritizing work now that he’s at college. He can’t juggle going to class with homework and his social life. Can you suggest a plan he can follow?

A: The most effective plan will be one that your son creates and follows. If he acknowledges that he is having trouble, ask if he would be willing to talk with a coach or an advisor at school to help him figure out the best plan. You and your son could work on it together, if he is the one to choose how he will plan his time. Let’s say he has an exam on Friday and a big party on Thursday night. What would be a realistic plan for studying during the week, spending time with friends at the party, and being rested for the Friday exam?

Few college students want to make plans with a parent, which is why a third party, such as an academic advisor, ADHD coach, or counselor at school, might be of value. Any one of them can help him attain a balance between his academic and social life. A good reference for you and your son is ADHD and the College Student, by Patricia Quinn, M.D. -Jodi Sleeper-Triplett


Q: I have a 20-year-old daughter who can’t finish writing a paper for a course. It could be her perfectionism or anxiety. She writes but never gets around to finishing it. What can I do?

Perfectionism and anxiety are powerful deterrents to getting work done. Your daughter may find it helpful to exercise daily before starting her writing, or to spend several minutes doing deep-breathing exercises and stretching to ease her mind and body. I encourage you to ask your daughter what she feels like when she is on the verge of finishing, and talk about shifting her thoughts toward how great it will feel to have the work done.

If there is a writing center at your daughter’s college, it’s a good place to go for help. The staff at a writing center can help your daughter identify strategies to help her complete the paper and ease her need to strive for perfection. Another option is to suggest to your daughter that she meet with her professors to talk about her difficulty and to ask for ideas and guidance. Continue to encourage her efforts and listen to her concerns. Together you may come up with an answer. -Jodi Sleeper-Triplett