5 Tips for College for the Student with ADHD
You have made it through high school, maybe after years of struggling, but you made it and now you are looking toward college. You are pretty sure you can do it, after all, it’s just a big high school, right? Wrong. College presents new challenges for students with ADHD. When in high school, parents and teachers were a constant support system, you probably didn’t even need to ask for help, they reminded you what needed to be done and followed up to make sure you completed the task. They bought supplies, made sure you had enough to eat. Your day was planned for you, you went to school, came home, did homework.
When you enter college, especially if you are going away, you are going to be responsible for your daily life. Your classes are spread out throughout the week, and may be in different buildings around campus. You need to plan time for studying, keep up with long-term assignments, make sure you get meals before the cafeteria closes, do your laundry and keep yourself organized. It is a crash course on becoming self-sufficient but with preparation you can do it.
The following tips should help you make the transition from high school to college:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Colleges and universities have a disability support office (thought it may go by a different name) and offer numerous services to help students, such as tutoring, and also work to set up accommodations. Don’t wait until you are failing classes to reach out for help. When you get to college, or even before you arrive, call or visit the disability office and find out what support services are available and what documentation you will need to be eligible for services.
Use technology to help keep you organized. If you don’t already do so, use your smart phone or cell phone to keep track of class schedules, assignments and tests. If you tend to hyperfocus or get so involved in an activity that you miss meals, set a timer to remind yourself that the cafeteria will be closing. Set reminders to take medication.
Use calendars and day-planners. While technology can be a great help, it may also be useful to use a large wall or desk calendar or a day planner to help you stay organized. You can see at a glance what your day is going to be like and what assignments are coming up. Organization is the key to success at college, so using different methods - including, for example, technology for reminders and a desk calendar to review each morning - to help you stay on top of tasks may be the way to go.
Plan out times to study. Often, we assume that we can fit in study time during our breaks from classes or in the evenings, but then other activities (which may sound much more interesting) get in the way and studying gets pushed back. Instead of assuming you will make time for school work, block out several times during the week; during these times don’t make any other plans. Develop a daily routine and stick to it.
Break down long-term projects. In high school, parents and teachers may have helped keep you on track when completing long-term assignments - but now it is up to you. As soon as you receive a long-term assignment, break it down into small pieces and write down a “due date” for completing each part. Mark these due dates on your calendar and in your phone. We often procrastinate starting a large project because it seems overwhelming. By breaking it down into small parts, you won’t be as overwhelmed, just focus on each portion of the assignment.
Incorporating these tips may help you stay on track. If you find you are falling behind, immediately ask for help through the disability office or make an appointment to sit down and talk with your professor. Don’t wait until you are so far behind that you are in danger of failing the class.