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College Success with ADHD

College Success with ADHD

Having an attention deficit as a child has its challenges in the classroom and in social settings, but often these struggles can be amplified when a teen goes to college.

Suddenly they’re out of the structured school day followed by scheduled practices, homework, and family time, and these teens/young adults are left to their own devices to set their schedules and complete their work.

For many students with ADHD, their struggles result in lower grades than their peers and a higher likelihood of dropping out.

Whether you are a senior in high school preparing for the transition to college (or their parents), or you are struggling through college and wondering how you’re going to make it, there are things you can do to support your strengths to make your college career successful (and fun).

How ADHD Presents After High School

ADHD can present in many different ways as teens get older. While the hyperactivity that characterizes the disorder at younger ages is still possible, more often symptoms of ADHD in older teens and young adults present as:

  • Impulsivity or poor decision making
  • Lack of focus
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Self-focused behavior
  • Forgetfulness or disorganization
  • Fidgeting and hyperactive behavior
  • Heightened emotionality and depression

These symptoms impact teens socially, personally, emotionally, academically, and vocationally as they pursue their goals. However, learning to channel strengths and set yourself up for success can make all the difference!

Succeed in College with ADHD

As you pursue a degree and a future career, here are some ways individuals with ADHD can optimize their strengths and achieve great things in college and beyond:

Focus on organization strategies. From the get-go, college is a test of organization more than any academics. How can you balance your study time/social life? How can you keep track of your schedules? How can you maintain your new living accommodations and remember where all your materials are?

For a teen without attention deficits, this transition is challenging. But for a teen with ADHD, a lack of organization skills can totally derail college success out of the gate.

Work on a self-guided, self-motivated schedule of when you’re going to study, when you’re going to relax, and how you’re going to keep your space neat and organized. Surrounding yourself with order in this way will help your brain adjust to the changes and stay on top of everything!

If you’ve always struggled with studying, our StudyRx program may be exactly what you need to give your solo studying time a boost. Learn more here.

Connect with campus organizations early on and have outlets for your energy and creativity. Whether it’s academic support, a sports club, or some other campus organization, getting involved on campus with things beyond academics will help teens with ADHD engage more fully in the college experience.

Having healthy outlets for their energy and creativity will allow them to focus more fully on all aspects of college: from academic to social to personal.

There are often support systems in place that can help students with various academic or social needs adjust, whether on campus or online (like BestColleges). Seeking these resources out from day 1 will set you up for a college career where you feel included, supported, and valuable to your community!

Plan your schedule based on your personality and when you are most productive. The beautiful thing about college for individuals with ADHD is that you often have more freedom to make your courses and schedules work with your strengths.

If you’re more focused in the morning but become scattered as the day goes on, plan your class schedule and study time accordingly. Or if the opposite is true, pursue evening class options that will allow you to be active and busy during the day and focused when you’re winding down for the night.

Setting little goals for yourself to reward your study times with things you enjoy will also help you stay motivated and engaged all day long!

Focus on building executive skills. Brain skills like attention, organization, and working memory are often weaker in individuals with ADHD. In fact, some research shows that ADHD is primarily a deficit in working memory, above anything else.

Supporting your cognitive skills with brain training is the best way to build your cognitive stamina and improve your attention, working memory, and life skills like organization!

In fact, brain training can improve attention and working memory skills by an average of 3.5 years (or more). These results look great on paper, but in real life it translates to easier learning, improved focus, and less stress academically and socially for our clients.

How to Prepare for College as a Student with ADHD

If you’re a student with ADHD who is preparing to go to college (or their family member), it can be daunting to think about how the accommodations and systems you’ve built to succeed in high school will translate to college.

The reality is that it is likely going to be hard. It is going to be a transition. It is going to tempt you to give up. But you can succeed in a typical college experience even if you do struggle with ADHD.

As you look ahead to the fall semester, here are some things you can start doing NOW to prepare:

  • Figure out your learning style.
    If you haven’t already, understanding this before you get to college will allow you to advocate for what you need from your professors.
  • Set schedules and disciplines now.
    Create rituals that allow you to focus better. Whether that’s a reward for 20 minutes of reading or studying, a music playlist that signals your brain that it’s time to chill and study, or a support system that you can maintain through college and beyond, these things will work wonders to help you be prepared!
  • Give your brain a boost before college starts.
    A brain training program will help correct the deficits in attention and working memory (and other cognitive skills) that would make college harder. Being proactive by getting these skills primed and ready BEFORE you go to college will make your experience SO much less stressful when you get there!

Contact us today to find out more about how brain training helps with college readiness and lifelong learning success!