For whatever reason, ADHD is more diagnosed these days than ever before. We used to say that a child was just hyperactive or they had lots of energy. Nowadays since we know so much more about this diagnosis, we know that children with ADHD have many different types of challenges, especially in school. While parents may be able to help their child during their first 12 years of school, what happens when that child goes off to college and is on their own for the first time? How do they deal with their schedule, projects, activities, etc when no one is forcing them to do any of it? Students with ADHD in college need the same systems and strategies that they had previously.

7 Ways to Excel in College

  1. One of the biggest issues facing young people today is telling time. I know that sounds crazy. Especially since they ALL have phones and the time is right there. Of course! They can read a digital clock and see what numbers are on the clock and what the clock says. However, digital clocks do not show you the passing of time. Often younger people can’t tell time on an analog clock. I’m talking about a clock that has numbers and hands moving with a second hand. Some don’t even know what a second hand is. And don’t even ask them to tell time if the clock has no numbers. My point is that without seeing the hands moving it’s hard to get a grasp of time passing or progressing. For example, when you only have 15 minutes to do something it helps to be able to see the time moving instead of seeing time as stagnant like on a digital clock. The mind will register it differently.

  2. It is extremely helpful to have an agenda of some sort to record assignments, classes, work schedules, practices, etc. Why try and cram all that information into your brain when it is just as easy to write it down or type it out? Whether you use a written agenda or an electronic one, the point is when you record what is going on in your life, on paper or electronically, you are better able to keep track of things. There will be less missed appointments, less missed assignments, fewer times being late to places, etc.

  3. One of the things that are very important to figure out is how best to keep track of your schoolwork – meaning your notes, handouts, and assignments due, to name just a few. Do things get lost in your backpack or your dorm room or your desk? Are you continually turning in assignments late because you can’t find them? While at home the excuse of the dog ate my homework might work, but in college that excuse no longer has any merit. Why? Because there are no dogs allowed in college dorms. Seriously though, in order to get on top of this, you have to figure out what will work for you and your brain. Maybe it’s keeping one binder for all subjects. Maybe it’s an accordion file or perhaps individual folders for each subject. The main thing is to find something that will work for you.

  4. Take advantage of the services offered by your school. In high school, you are given accommodations for your particular learning style. It helped you to do better and to excel. So why not take advantage of those same accommodations in college? While you may not want your peers to know you have challenges it is not something that needs to be put on amp. The important thing is to utilize the services that are given to you. You did the work and got into the school so now use the resources and graduate.

  5. Get a coach. You might be thinking that a coach is just for someone involved in sports. Obviously, you have those types of coaches but there are also organization coaches for students. Student organization coaches are extremely beneficial to students that struggle with ADHD and Executive Function Disorder. Some of the things student organization coaches help with are time management, studying, project management, space management, and multitasking. There are also other ways that they can help students. The point is when you feel bad you go to the doctor so if you are having challenges with school why not get a coach to help with that as well? We could all use a little help in some area of your lives.

  6. Establish routines. Routines are extremely helpful for many things. It helps to set you up for success. Routines not only save time and save money but they can also relieve stress. When you set up systems for everything you will not only know where to find things thus saving time (by not spending unnecessary time looking for them) and save money (since you know exactly where it is you won’t have to buy another one) but it will relieve the stress of searching and spending. Routines are particularly helpful when doing schoolwork. When is the best time to do your work, where is the best place to do your work, do you work better with music or without? These are some of the things that should be sorted out and routines implemented to make your school year more successful. The more consistent you are the more successful.

  7. Space Management aka Dorm Room – Believe it or not your space, as in your dorm room, can set you up for success or failure. Besides the fact that there will be fewer fights with a roommate if clutter is at a minimum when things are more organized it actually puts your mind at rest. It has been proven that clutter and definite effects on the brain. As noted in this Newsweek article, our brains like order and when it isn’t present it reduces our ability to focus. (An aside I am not a huge fan of Marie Kondo and the way she works. I am including this article because of what it says. For more information as to why check out my blog post on Marie Kondo.)

Set Expectations

When organizing for ADHD there are certain things you should be aware of and you should set your expectations accordingly. Now obviously, you know that they are focus issues as well as challenges with multitasking effectively. What you don’t want to do is set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Be realistic so that you can actually achieve them and not set yourself up for failure. Working with a coach in this area would be ideal. They will be able to help you with project management which will be invaluable.

Organize your Room

Wanna know what my philosophy is where organization is concerned? Here goes. Containerize to organize. That means that everything should be contained. When items are all over the place not only is it not appealing to the eye and makes your brain feel cluttered but it is also challenging to find what you need. If everything has a home then it is much easier to find what you need. Virtually anything can be contained – from books to clothes to toiletries to office supplies. If you need inspiration you can always check Pinterest or HGTV or hire a professional. You can always find one in your area by going to the NAPO website.

One of the important things to remember is to organize your space so that it makes sense. While dorm rooms are usually not that flexible with the placement of the furniture you can always add to the room to make it the best space it can be for you.

Photo credit Lovely Dorm Room Organization Ideas On A Budget33

Planners that Work

If you were to Google planners you will find literally hundreds of different kinds. But let me tell you. All planners are not created equally. There are planners for 12 months, 18 months, ones for one day on a page, one week on a page and even one month per page. But for students with ADHD the one that I find most helpful is the academic planner created by my colleague at Order Out of Chaos. This academic planner gives you a weekly view. It allows you to input each class subject on the left side, then you input the assignments and test schedule for the week. You will notice that there is an area for your afterschool schedule as well. Just input your doctor’s appointments, work schedule or practices on the appropriate day. This planner also has instructions on how to use it, a project planning guide, a calendar for the school year, a monthly overview and a notes section. There’s even a pocket in the back where you can put important notes and such. This is the best academic planner for time management.

While there some challenges that you will have to overcome, you can do it. There are resources, professional help and more to help you to excel.

ADHD Affecting College Kids


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