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Higher Education and ADHD

ADHD can affect your ability to perform throughout college. Whether you’re going to an out-of-state university, staying at home and attending a community college, or enrolled in a program at a trade school, the change of pace can be difficult for people with ADHD.

The Transition to Higher Education

Your routine in college will most likely be very different from your schedule in high school. You may live somewhere new, have classes at different times during the week, and study different topics. For some people with ADHD, this change in lifestyle might turn out to be a better fit. You may prefer choosing your own classes, having shorter school days with longer breaks, and meeting new people.

But for many, it can be hard to stay motivated and to stay on top of a college schedule. Harder classes, different teaching methods, and more responsibility can be tough to balance, especially for students with ADHD.

While it may be difficult, it’s not impossible. Today, more and more students with ADHD are enrolling in colleges across the country.

Tips for Success

Here are some things you can do to help your time in college run smoothly:

Acceptance. Understanding and accepting ADHD and how it affects you will give you a better perspective during college. Try to stay open to new challenges.

Show up. Some of your teachers may not count attendance in college, but this doesn’t mean it’s OK to skip class. Go to all of your classes and save your skip days for emergencies or illnesses. Regular class attendance will help you get better grades and make your professors more likely to help you succeed.

Ask for help. You may find that you need extra help in some classes, or you may want to chat with your professor about an assignment. Schedule an appointment with your professors or their teaching assistants during their office hours. If you can’t meet during these times because of your schedule, email them and ask if they’re available at another point. You can also find study groups or peer tutor services to help you succeed in class.

Stay realistic. If you’re not a morning person, don’t sign up for early morning classes. Schedule your classes so that they fall around times when you’re most focused. Leave enough time between classes to get from one place to another.

Plan. Use an agenda or calendar to keep track of your classes, papers, tests, assignments, and social activities. It might also help to keep a digital calendar on your phone and laptop so that you get notifications for due dates. At the start of the semester, your professors will most likely give you a syllabus with important dates. Mark all these down right away so you don’t lose track.

Sleep. Keep a good sleep schedule during college. Lack of sleep can make it hard to pay attention in class and could lead to impulsive decision-making. Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.

Keep a balance. It’s important to work hard in college. But it’s also crucial that you find outlets to enjoy yourself in safe ways. After you finish your schoolwork, treat yourself to fun activities. Join clubs that pique your interest and get to know like-minded people.

Take your medication. Take your ADHD medication as prescribed by your doctor. Don’t skip doses or misuse your medicine to cram in study sessions. This could disrupt your sleep schedule, lead to a lack of long-term focus, and may cause dangerous side effects. If you find that your medicine doesn’t fit your needs anymore, talk to your doctor.

Time your study sessions right. Plan to study when your medication is most effective. This will help you stay productive and get the most work done during the week. Take breaks during your study sessions as well. Hit the books for 30 minutes at a time and then take a 5- to 10-minute break before you study again.

Find support. Talk to family or friends to share how you feel. Even if you don’t live with family members anymore, keep them updated during college. Your loved ones can give you the moral support you need to be successful.

Accommodations

It’s completely up to you if you want to disclose your ADHD to your school or not. If you want special accommodations, such as extra time for tests or assignments, to help with your ADHD symptoms, contact your school’s office of disability. You might need documentation of your ADHD to get accommodations.

Students who have ADHD accommodations usually receive:

  • Longer amounts of time to take tests and complete assignments
  • Separate, quieter testing areas
  • Permission to record lectures
  • Help with writing class notes through a note-taking service
  • Reading assistance services
  • Audio textbooks
  • Written instructions from professors
  • Priority class registration
  • The possibility to substitute classes within the curriculum
  • A reduced course load
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Learn Psychology: “Understanding ADHD and Recognizing the Symptoms.”

CHADD: “College and ADHD,” “Succeeding in College with ADHD.”

Child Mind Institute: “10 Tips for Going to College With ADHD.”

Attention Deficit Disorder Association: “Recommended Accommodations for College Students with ADHD.”

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