How to manage ADHD in college

The transition to college can be tough for anyone—living away from home for the first time, juggling the responsibility of class, being on your own. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. But what if you have ADHD?

College students with ADHD face many challenges, but they can be overcome. (Credit:

College students with ADHD face many challenges, but they can be overcome. (Credit:

That can make the changes and challenges that college bring even tougher. For prospective college students with ADHD or even a current student with ADHD, here are some tips for how you can survive and succeed as an undergrad.

Be proactive

The best way to handle any potential pitfalls that ADHD may cause college students is by being proactive and addressing the potential pitfalls straight on. In “11 Tips for Succeeding in College When You Have ADHD” by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. wrote for Psych Central with some tips and resources for college students with ADHD. Her findings included:

  • Apply for accommodations to help you level the playing field with other students.
  • Find a therapist in your new town that specializes in ADHD.
  • Don’t work your first year of college—instead focus on getting adjusted.
  • Ease into things by taking a summer class.
  • Stick with real courses, not online classes, so you get the structure you need.
  • Create a schedule to give you even more structure so you don’t get off track.
  • Utilize any resources that your college offers you.

Plan ahead

The key to success in college is staying on top of your coursework. This goes double for college students with ADHD. All it takes is a little forward thinking and planning to help you stay focused and doing well. “10 Tips For College Students With Disabilities” by Kathleen Masterson posted September 17, 2008, on goes into some more specifics that can help:

  • Learn how you learn. Are you a visual, auditory or hands-on learner? Knowing how you learn best can help you absorb and retain information better.
  • Be an active learner. During your reading, occasionally stop and ask if what you are reading about reminds you of anything. “By associating new facts with things you already know, you improve your memory and understanding,” Masterson wrote.
  • Plan ahead, especially for final projects and tests that are a big part of your grade. Breaking big projects into manageable chunks will help ensure you don’t get overwhelmed and fall behind.
  • Identify problems that repeatedly get in your way.  Feeling frustrated about something? Masterson suggests asking yourself if you are in need of someone to study with or maybe you need to further break down the work. Or ask, “Am I frustrated because my ADHD/LD sometimes requires me to work harder than other students?” she suggested. 

Understand your ADHD medication

Odds are if you have ADHD and needed medication to keep you focused and help your concentration before college, you are going to need to continue with that medication once you are on campus. But there are some things you should be aware of, since you won’t have mom and dad watching over your shoulder everyday, in regards to your ADHD prescription.

Dr. Patricia O. Quinn wrote “Top Ten Things I Wish Students With ADD (ADHD) Knew About Their Medication When They Arrive On Campus” for with her tips for college students with ADHD. Chief among her suggestions? “Many students have a mistaken notion that if one pill works well, two will work better – while that may be true for other medications, that is not the case for stimulants,” she wrote. So take your medication as your doctor prescribed it.

Dr. Quinn adds that students need to remember it is against the law to share or sell their ADHD medication. Also college students with ADHD should be especially careful about drinking alcohol if they are legally able to or if using other non-legal drugs such as marijuana. Both can cause further chemical imbalance in your brain, as well as making your prescribed medication for ADHD less effective.

College students with ADHD can thrive on campus with the proper planning. Building strategies and habits that help you handle your ADHD, like those offered in the tips for college students above, will help start you off on the right foot.

Do you have ADHD or another learning disability and are a college student? How have you handled it and what tips would you give someone to make it all easier? Let us know in the comments.

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