College Adjustment Strategies For College Students With ADHD or ADD

College Students With ADHD or ADD: Making the College Transition As Smooth As Possible


coaching for college studentsGoing to college for the first time can be a particular challenge for students with ADHD. Being away from home can be both stressful and exciting.  For students to have finished high school and made it to college they had to have gained significant independent study skills in preparation for this event. However, given the additional challenges of a new setting, living situation, and school format-they will need to learn new strategies, and put in place additional structure and a support system to make this transition as smooth as possible.


College Adjustment Strategies

Here is a list of college adjustment strategies that, if implemented, will assist your ADHD teen in the transition:

Use A Calendar/Planner To Manage Time/Activities

  • Use a (written, paper) daily planner to write due dates of homework assignments, projects, papers and to track appointments
  • If you are comfortable with, or already use electronic devices like smartphones, and timers, use these to remind yourself of things to do/actions needed throughout the day using the calendar/schedule, and alarm features.
  • Check this schedule frequently. Look at the drop down menu for the whole day and then each hour.
  • Take the time to learn how to use all your relevant device calendar features. Get help from a tech expert or friend to set this up as it will be worth the time and effort.


Use Sticky Notes

If it helps, use virtual and/or paper sticky notes on your computer as a reminder of an important date/and action to take. For example, due dates of papers/projects, appointments, reminder of actions to take, etc. But, only put up one or two at most at a time


Minimize Distractions

  • Wear earplugs if it is too noisy to go to sleep
  • Use white noise apps on your computer or phone to block out distracting noises


Note Taking

  • Use a large 3 ring binder to house all your notebooks. Have a different notebook for each class with matching bi-fold/folder with pockets to put loose note paper, homework assignments, etc. Use color coding/matching; so if the Chemistry notebook is blue- then the Chemistry pocket folder should be blue.
  • Take notes in class, consistently, even if you do not usually take them.


Use Visual Daily Reminders/ Routines

  • Use a large wall calendar to get a short- and long-term visual picture of what you have to do, and when you need to do it. Plan due dates for exam and write in time for studying and writing papers
  • Create daily routines and rituals (schedule these until 2nd nature) to minimize forgetting to do important things
  • Create/Implement a regular sleep, diet, nutrition, and exercise schedule


Plan For Transitions

  • Take time to wake up and do your morning routine. Set aside time to settle down and get ready to fall asleep.
  • Take time to gather books and belongings and walk to class.
  • Set a timer or alarm to remind you when you need to start/stop and activity


Practice Good Studying Behavior

  • Establish a regular time and place to study.
  • Plan for long-term projects: Divide a project into smaller pieces, estimate the time required for each piece of the project, make deadlines for each piece as well as for the entire project.


Manage Time Effectively

  • Write down when assignments are due right when you get them. You can write the due date in your phone calendar with alert when it is due, or use your hardcopy planner.
  • If long-term project- plan to do it in stages with different due dates for each part of project.
  • If short term project- try to do it the day it is assigned, or the next day-don’t leave it for the day it is due or right before.
  • Don’t overbook your schedule because you will need time for homework and other things you may want to do like sports, friends and other ways to take care of your self.


Organize Smarter

  • Keep desk neat- so you can find things more easily.
  • Same thing with your room-keep it clean and organized. Keep objects in a logical place, e.g. keys go on a hook near the door
  • Group like items in the same place. Top drawer school supplies, bottom drawer medicine, etc. If it helps-label drawers.
  • Less is more-the less stuff you have, the more organized you can be., and the easier it will be to find things. If you don’t need/use something bring it home on the school break.


Implement Strategies Early

Students with ADHD that succeed in college are those that implement these strategies as soon as they begin the school year. By putting these tactics in place, students find that they are less stressed, report feeling more organized and on top of their work. Because there is typically less parental involvement when students go to college, it is important that students develop the structure and skills needed for independent living that will make life less of a struggle for them, not only in college, but after graduation as well.  Parents should discuss their expectations with their teens about the frequency and nature of how they will be communicating with their teen around their classwork. Most schools have support services available should the student need additional support. Also, many college area, community based agencies tailor services to students with ADHD  and may have workshops, or other college adjustment strategies for college students with ADHD or ADD should this be needed.

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