Students with ADHD often encounter more challenges in college than their peers. Difficulties with studying, setting goals, time management, and coping can leave undergraduates with ADHD frustrated and overwhelmed. By following these attention deficit disorder college tips, students can better navigate the path to academic success.

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Making a Successful Transition to College with ADHD

ADHD can make the transition to college difficult. There are high expectations associated with forming new friendships, living independently and of course, achieving academic success.

Students with ADHD often have problems with transitions, so they may want to start college life slowly. Beginning school at a local community college is one way to ease the transition. Since students live at home, they continue to enjoy a familiar environment and the support of their parents.

If students choose to attend school out of state, they may want to live with a supportive relative or friend until they are familiar with the new area and routine.

Students with ADHD living in dormitories have the added responsibility of managing their symptoms without the constant support of parents or relatives. To adjust, these students should research mental health services and support groups on and around campus. Begin by contacting the campus counseling center and asking about services for students with ADHD; remember to ask if fees are involved.

Students who live in residence halls may also want locate private practices and hospitals in the community, since most campuses only offer short-term care. Private practices can be affordable, accessible, and student-friendly. Students should also obtain the contact information of the local hospital in case emergency care is needed.

Asking for College Accommodations

Students with ADHD should contact the disability support services on campus. Unlike in high school, college students who have disorder are not covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and IEP teams do not exist, either. Rather, students must request academic accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Obtaining accommodations under the ADA differs from the process under IDEA and colleges have somewhat varying procedures. It’s the student’s responsibility to learn these procedures, disclose ADHD as a disability, request accommodations, and ask for changes or additions each semester if needed.

Here are some examples of accommodations that students with ADHD can receive:

  • priority registration
  • reduced course load
  • note takers and recording devices
  • extra time for taking tests
  • a separate testing room
  • extended deadlines for assignments
  • study skills training

5 Tools for Managing ADHD in College

When it comes to coursework, students with ADHD may face difficulties with managing time, staying organized, coping with distractions, and focusing on goals. Typically, these students fare better at colleges with small class sizes, individual attention from faculty, and opportunities for classroom participation.

There are many strategies that undergraduates with ADHD can use to help make college a positive and successful experience. Here, some recommendations made to students at Concordia University-St. Paul in Minnesota:

1. Establish structure. Create a daily schedule of studying, socializing, sleeping and exercising to help you accomplish academic and personal goals and manage any stress. Choose early classes to create structure at the start of the day, and work on homework in the library after classes.

2. Set goals and prioritize. With the many demands of college life, it’s crucial to focus on only a few goals at any given time. Prioritize assignments as soon as you receive them, and create a realistic timeline to complete the work. For example, if you have a paper due in two weeks, block out times to research the subject, create an outline, write the paper and proofread it.

3. Develop time management and organizational skills. Use an electronic planner to keep track of project due dates and exam days, as well as work, social, and recreational activities. Break homework assignments into components (reading, writing, etc.) and schedule time to do each part. Save 10 to 15 minutes at the end of each day to plan for the next day.

4. Ignore distractions. Schedule study periods. Work in short, blocks of time when you can devote your full concentration. Tell friends that it’s important for you to stay focused and avoid chatter during this time. Also avoid returning phone calls, answering emails, or responding to instant messages while you study.

Try not to change your study times. If one class does not have an assignment on a particular day, study for another class during that time.

5. Build a support system. Finally, seek a counselor, friends and coworkers to help you deal with isolation, stress and frustration. Developing a support network in college may take time, so maintain contact with high school friends and close relatives who can provide guidance and support. Join study groups or intramural sports, or be matched with student mentors who can act as role models.

By following these tips, college students with ADHD can build confidence and achieve success.

By Stephanie Torreno


Concordia University-St Paul. Available at: Accessed June 6, 2011.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Available at: Accessed: June 6, 2011.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 28 Jun 2011

Last Modified: 27 Aug 2015