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How to Survive College with ADHD

By: Melanie Hamm, CNP

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.


The transition from high school to college is often a very difficult stage for students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). New friends, new teachers, new living space, more responsibilities, less structure and more distractions can create a very rough stage. It is crucial that college students learn to advocate for themselves and not only survive college, but be successful.

10 Tips for Survival and Success:

  1. Use a planner. Write down all assignments, study times, and events. Check it multiple times per day, if needed. Have trouble keeping up with your planner? Download a planner app on your phone.
  2. Make a to-do list once a week. Prioritize your tasks according to importance. The most important tasks should be prioritized at the first of the week. You will be more likely to complete those.
  3. Create a morning and evening routine. Make sure to wake up and start your day early. Taking care of your body with sleep, diet and exercise is critical for students with ADHD. Eat a protein-rich breakfast (it helps you focus), attend a workout class or run around campus and get 8 hours of sleep.
  4. Make sure your work area is free of distractions. Turn off all electronics. Set specific times to check emails, texts and peruse Facebook.
  5. Assess your attention span for a given task. Can you pay attention for 10 minutes? Twenty minutes? Divide your work into sections you can complete in that given time-frame and then take two to five-minute breaks in between.
  6. Set alarms – for waking up, for breaks, for studying and for scrolling through social media. If not, a five-minute break will turn into an hour.
  7. If you are treated for ADHD, stay in contact with your health care provider. Do not run out of medication. Take medication as directed. Keep your medication in a very safe place.
  8. Get organized. Binders, dividers and zipper compartments are your friends. They will keep you sane. Clutter creates distractions, so declutter your space. Create a “launching pad” for things you always need before heading out the door, i.e., cellphone, keys, backpack, purse/wallet.)
  9. Treat college like a job.  Stay on top of things by working during the day like an eight to five job. Study and complete assignments early on. Use the weekends for relaxing, socializing and studying.
  10. Last, but most important: visit the Office of Disability before your first class starts. You will need proof of your ADHD. Your health care provider can write a letter stating your diagnosis and request accommodations for ADHD. Make a list of the accommodations you feel would help, and take it to your meeting. Consider these for testing: extended time on tests, alternative testing formats, testing in a separate environment. Consider these for lecture: Permission to record, audio-taped books, note taker. Be familiar with what your college can offer, and utilize those resources. Study groups, reading groups, tutors, study skills class and academic coaches are all valuable resources to consider.

Be your own advocate and be successful. 


Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.