How to Succeed While You’re in College ADHD
Every year in August or September, thousands upon thousands of students move away from the integrated structure and safety net of home to free themselves from the freedoms and independence of university life. While this can be an exciting time filled with all kinds of opportunities for learning and growth ADHD, it can also be a time of anxiety and overwhelm, especially if you suffer from an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Not only are you dealing with greater responsibilities, less structured time, a lot more distractions, and new social situations, but you’re dealing with the lack of many of the support systems you may have had in high school.
Qualities of a successful student
Sarah D. Wright, ADHD coach and author of Fidget to Focus: Outwit Your Bored: Sensory Strategies for Living with ADD, explains that successful students typically have four main qualities that help them achieve their goals:
- Sticking to things even when the going gets tough (perseverance)
- Ability to postpone gratification and emphasis on the huge picture
- Time management and organizational skills
- Discovering the right balance between work and pleasure
These skills, however, do not come easily to a student with ADHD. Poor management function is hallmarks of ADHD, notes Wright.
Students with ADHD may not rely on these skills, because they are just the weakest skills.
How ADHD Affects Students
Poor executive function can lead to several school problems: disorganization, prioritizing, getting started and completing work, forgetting homework, difficulty memorizing facts, writing essays or reports, solving complex math problems, and completing long projects. The term, preparing and planning, and even regulating and managing emotions.
The great news is that these areas of executive work can be better. For most students with ADHD, the problem is not knowing what to do, but doing it. Avoiding sidetracks and staying focused on the target with the plan can be a challenge that can quickly prevent you from accomplishing what you set out to do.
Tips for Succeeding in College
Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to stay on track. If you are a student with ADHD, these tips provided by Wright are for you:
1. Start the day on time
Three main factors contribute to being late in the morning: getting up late, being distracted, and being disorganized.
If leaving the bed is a problem:
- Set two alarms to trigger in sequence
- Put the second alarm where you know it’s bothering your housemates, increasing the consequences if you don’t get up and turn it off in time
- Set the alarm to go off earlier so you can be pokier in the morning
If getting distracted is a problem:
- If certain things tend to derail you, like checking your email or reading the news, make that activity wait until later in the day.
- Figure out how much time you need to get dressed, eat, and get organized, then set alarms or other reminders to let you know you need to get this task done.
Three ways to get your bearings to stay on schedule:
- While this trick only works in certain circumstances, some people will find they can use a familiar music mix as a timer. For example, if you have a music mix where each song is 3-4 minutes long and you have 30 minutes to start, the schedule might look like this: wash and dress songs 1-3, eat songs 4 at 6, and your stuff together during song 7, and out the door by song 8. This will work best if you use the same mix every morning.
- Use your phone or buy a programmable snooze watch so your alarms are always nearby.
- Put a large wall clock in your room where you can easily see it. If your bedroom is part of a suite with a common room and bathroom, place wall clocks in those spaces as well.
If being disorganized is the problem:
- Create a “launchpad” by your exit door. Gather all the things you will need in the morning the night before (like your backpack, and keys) and put them on the launch pad.
- Leave yourself a note at the launchpad so you can “reprogram” your brain with what you need to remember that day. Then everything will be ready for you to catch it running.
2. Work with your urge to procrastinate
Although it may seem counterproductive if you feel the urge to procrastinate, go with the feeling. Wright explains that when you have ADHD, sometimes the only thing you do is just before your due date. At this point, nothing has a higher priority, which increases the urgency and consequences if you don’t do it NOW. These qualities are what can ultimately make the task doable.
So, work with that. Plan to procrastinate but stack the bridge so you can remove it. For example, if you must write a document, make sure you have already done the reading or research and have an idea of what you want to write. Calculate how many hours you’ll need to write it, block those hours into your schedule, then,
3. Study smarter not harder
Boredom and working memory are two issues for most people with ADHD. Research reveals that multimodal learning assists people to remember and learn. So rather than trying to force information into your head, get creative. Wright gives these examples of creative ways to study and remember what you have studied:
- While reading, highlight text with different colors
- Take notes and jot them down
- Make audio notes with iPhones or other recorders and review them as you walk through campus
- Use mnemonics to create fun ways to remember
- Try standing up while you read
- Try to read the mission aloud using an expressive voice (not boring)
- Get a study buddy
Not everything works for everyone but try mixing it up and seeing what happens. Wright also points out that taking study breaks every two hours and getting enough sleep is part of studying smarter, not harder. Sleep impacts learning in two ways. First, sleep deprivation negatively impacts short-term memory, which is what you use to learn material when studying. Second, sleep is needed to move short-term memories into long-term memory, which is what you’ll be counting on when it’s time to take the test. So, make sure to get enough sleep if you need to make the most out of your research time.
4. Schedule your study time
Many students with ADHD are quite intelligent. They can often get a passing grade in high school, or even a good one, just by cramming in the night before the tests. Chances are this strategy won’t work in college. Wright says a good rule of thumb for college is 2 to 2.5 hours of study time per week for each course credit unit. “You should think of college as a job and plan to spend
at least 40 hours a week in classes and classes,” she says. “What works for a lot of students is treating college like a job: 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, you’re working in the school, which means during the day you’re studying or grab a quick bite to eat. Then you get evenings and weekends. If you like to play sports, you will have to compensate for these hours of study devoted to sports. If you block out the required number of hours somewhere in your daily schedule and remember that school is your job, you should be fine.
5. Plan your time: evaluate and prioritize
It may seem strange, but it is very important to actively plan the time to plan. If you don’t develop this habit, you will always find yourself reactive rather than proactive. Wright suggests making a high-level plan for the weekday Monday morning and the weekend Friday. Then do a daily review of that plan over breakfast, adding relevant details as needed, to make sure you know what will happen that day. When you can assess what you need to do versus all you could do, then you can prioritize what needs to be done first and take care of it.
6. Stick to your plan
With ADHD, that’s always the hard part. If you like rewards, use them. For example, you can say to yourself, “I’m going to read for two hours and then go to the coffee shop.” You can negotiate rewards for good grades with your parents too. If you’re competitive, use that. Choose another student in your class who you want to do better than and go for it.
If you know you respond to social pressure, make plans with your classmates to study together so you don’t let them down. Make appointments with tutors for the similar reason. You might not require tutoring, but you might require structured study time. As these tips illustrate, there are all kinds of ways to help you stick to your plan. if
ADHD Coaching in College
There is increasing evidence, both anecdotal and research, that family therapy near me can be a crucial strategy in assisting students learn to prioritize, plan, and persist. Coaching assists students to build more self-determination and direction. It reduces the stress and anxiety felt by many students with ADHD and increases self-confidence and self-sufficiency.
What’s so powerful about ADHD coaching is that by going through the coaching process, students learn how to coach. “They learn the skills they need to be self-sufficient and successful and build their executive functioning abilities in the process. If you may improve your executive performance, you may be more productive in more areas on your own. This is the strength that ADHD coaching brings into an individual’s life.
Another bonus: because many coaches work over the phone, you can take your coach wherever you go. Unluckily, it is remarkably simple for students with ADHD to come down behind immediately without even understanding it. Being proactive and putting strategies in place from the start to ensure success is far more effective than trying to dig a hole or fix failures. Consider starting with an ADHD therapist near me to help make the transition to college life a happy, successful, and productive one.