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Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D. Headshot

5 Tips for College Students With ADHD

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COLLEGE ADHD
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I once was a college student with ADHD. I remember going to the library with my friends, and I would marvel at how they could sit and study for hours at a time. And they could sit still! No fidgeting, no bouncing of the leg. I would wonder to myself (as I meandered among the rows of books in the library), why can't I do that?

College students face a slew of new challenges at the start of school: Where will they live? How will they get from point A to point B? How will they study? How will they cope with missing their family and friends back home? For the college student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), these concerns are magnified.

It can be a challenge for any college student to go from living with parents that enforce rules, wake you up in the morning, and set guidelines, to all of the sudden arriving at a magical place where you are totally in control of your own destiny.

When you have ADHD, you thrive on a structured schedule. The challenge is creating that structure on your own. People with ADHD also benefit from having clear guidelines and expectations given to them ahead of time. However, in many college classes, it is "sink or swim." You get with the program, or you get kicked out of the program. Not exactly conducive to the success of the college student with ADHD.

While all of this may sound overwhelming, there are steps that ADHD college students can take to increase their chances for a successful college experience.

1. One of the most important ways to increase college success is by obtaining accommodations through the college's Office of Student Disability Services (OSDS). Accommodations are changes made in order to provide students with disabilities equal access to education. It creates an "even playing field" with students that don't have ADHD. Accommodations include extended time on tests, testing in a quiet location, having another student take notes for you in class, and having a reduced course load count as full-time status. Apply for accommodations as soon as possible. You can even apply through the OSDS when you are accepted to the college. To qualify for accommodations, you must have (in part) an evaluation from a mental health clinician detailing your diagnosis of ADHD, how it impairs your academic performance, and suggested accommodations. See your college's OSDS for more details.

2. Take advantage of your college's free services. Many colleges have "writing centers" where you can have your papers reviewed and edited. Your college may also have free tutoring services. Always attend your professor's review sessions before exams. Always.

3. A question many of my clients ask is if they should disclose their ADHD to their roommate. My answer? It depends. If you have known your roommate for a while (for example, you are cousins or you grew up together), you may feel comfortable enough to share that information. If you and your roommate are meeting each other for the first time, you may not want to disclose it at the very beginning. Trust your intuition. Letting roommates know about your ADHD diagnosis can lead to a smoother living situation, or it can make things more challenging, Again, every situation is different.

4. If you have ADHD, you may tend to be a little on the messy side. Try to keep your "avalanche" confined to your bedroom, and stop papers and other stuff from creeping into the main living area. As long as you keep the main living areas and kitchen clean, your tendency to be messy may not really impact your roommates. Spend 15 minutes at the end of each day putting away items, and if you share a bathroom, do a quick clean before you go to bed. That can include taking out the trash and wiping down the counters.

5. To keep a better control over your money, use direct withdrawal and direct deposit as much as usual. That greatly reduces your chances of losing a check or immediately cashing a check and blowing through the money. Do make sure you have "overdraft protection" on your account in case your trip to the bookstore and your electric bill withdrawal occur on the same day.

Follow these tips for getting settled into your new digs, and you are on your way to a successful college experience! If I could do it, you can too.

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