Challenges with ADHD and College

It goes without saying that the college admissions process can be stressful. This starts with deciding what high school courses to take, choosing extracurricular activities, and navigating standardized tests. Then comes finding the right colleges, completing applications, writing essays, and for some – applying for scholarships and financial aid. Once admitted to a school, students must adapt to a new way of life, without the structure and support they may have received at home and in high school. While this can be overwhelming for any student, those with ADHD can face different sets of challenges.

Structuring Your Environment

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 12 percent of teenagers are diagnosed with ADHD, and the National Resource Center on ADHD reports that symptoms continue into adulthood for over three-quarters of those patients. They report trouble concentrating, difficulty with organization and following through on instructions, procrastination issues, and forgetfulness. However, with a proper diagnosis, medical care, and support services, both children and adults can live very productive lives. Learning to structure one’s environment and relying on resources to help manage ADHD is imperative for all students especially those preparing for college.

Steps for Managing ADHD in High School and Beyond

Taking the proper steps to manage ADHD is key to the success of the student, and good habits should start before you get to college. Here are a few suggestions that both health care professionals and educators encourage:

  • Take responsibility for your situation. If on medications, take them daily as prescribed. Be proactive with managing your ADHD, avoiding triggers that make it hard to do so.
  • Talk with teachers about your ADHD. Work with them to develop a plan for keeping you alert and on-task. Discuss your progress and challenges and find what works best for you.
  • Set and keep schedules. If you take medication, plan to study during the times when your medication is most effective. Adhere to schedules in order to stay on task.
  • Turn off phones, televisions and any other distracting devices when doing homework. Since distractibility and disorganization are key ADHD symptoms, it stands to reason that anything keeping you from concentrating should be put away, if possible.
  • Use tools that help you stay organized – These tools may include planners, digital calendars, lists. Set reminders to keep track of assignments, tests, your schedule, and any other important events/dates.
  • Get plenty of sleep and exercise. An adequate amount of sleep is required for concentration. Exercise also helps the ADHD brain function more effectively and efficiently, and it is a great outlet when you have extra energy to expel, or simply need a break.
  • Eat well. Fueling your body with good food helps stabilize the mind and makes concentration easier. Drink lots of water and avoid high sugar snacks, which are proven to exacerbate ADHD symptoms.
  • Take activity breaks. Divide the time you spend completing assignments and studying into “chunks,” with 5 to 10-minute breaks every 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Try meditation. Meditation can help with ADHD because it stimulates the part of the brain that is involved in focus, planning and impulse control.
  • Focus on all the good things about you. Managing ADHD and college or high school can sometimes be frustrating, but try and focus all your best talents, attributes, and accomplishments. A good, positive mindset is key to managing ADHD successfully.

ADHD and College Choice

  • Disclosing ADHD during the college admissions process. Many students worry about disclosing ADHD when applying to college. While the decision is up to the individual, there may be some good reasons for disclosure. Describing how ADHD may have had an impact on a student’s grades or coursework might help colleges understand the student better. Although colleges cannot require students to provide this information in the application process, many do invite disclosure and will consider this in the admissions process. Another creative way that many students choose to approach the subject is through their college essays, where they can tell how they have overcome any adversity associated with ADHD.
  • Schools that support students with ADHD. While all colleges are required to offer disability services, the type and intensiveness of services offered can vary dramatically from one school to the next. There are some smaller colleges that cater more to the population, but students can be successful at any school if they know exactly what their needs are and how to fulfill them.
  • Evaluating your needs. Think about the type of things that you might need to succeed in college. Understanding what you plan to do and how you will go about achieving it can help you to stay motivated. What do you want to major in? Do you need individual help from teachers or other staff?
  • Ask questions. One of the best ways to get the information you need is to simply ask. Find out about the Student Disability Services in the schools of your choice. Ask if there are programs and services available to assist students with ADHD, and what kind of accommodations are available. Find out about the staff – who is working in the department and what are their qualifications? You can even ask to talk to other students with ADHD to see what their experiences have been.

College ADHD and College Success

Planning around academics and your mental health can ensure that you not only survive, but thrive in college. The most successful students learn early how to deal with issues of time management, emotional and social well-being, focusing in class, doing homework and taking tests. This starts by applying steps for managing ADHD and college life.  You also need to adopt routines that reinforce healthy behaviors, while limiting those things that can be deterrents – such as over consumption of alcohol or other drugs.

Starting a New Journey

While starting out in a new place with new people can be exciting, it is sometimes difficult for people with ADHD. Remember that every other new student is facing uncertainties as well, so be open to new opportunities to meet people and make friends. Participate in clubs and activities that excite you and allow you to meet people who share your interests. Keep in mind that your high school friends and family members will continue to support you in college and will encourage you through any ups and downs.

College Consulting for ADHD and College

At Moxie, we are here to support you as you move through your college admission, and beyond. Our college consulting services will help you with everything from high school course selection, extra-curricular planning, standardized test planning, college list development, college application and essay development, resumes, interviews and more. No matter what you need, we have your back. Contact us today!