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Helping Your College Student Successfully Manage Their ADHD

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Going to college is a challenging transition for most students. For students who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it can be even more challenging to manage. Common issues include lack of organization, focus, and making social connections. Getting support can help students learn the necessary skills during this transition. However, many tools can help manage the challenges posed in college.

ADHD Symptoms

Commonly marked with an ongoing pattern of impulsivity, lack of attention, and hyperactivity, each individual will experience different levels of severity and types of ADHD symptoms. Symptoms will vary in severity of each aspect, the amount of occurrence, and how much they interrupt their ability to function in certain situations.

Challenges for College Students with ADHD

ADHD symptoms tend to change over time. However, throughout adolescence and adulthood, there is commonly difficulty in organizing, focusing, socializing, and impulsivity. These aspects of ADHD can greatly impact an individual's success in college. Research has found that students with ADHD earn poorer grades than their peers. Below we will discuss multiple aspects and how they impact students.

Organization and Focus

Overlooking details and making mistakes are common symptoms of ADHD and problems in college. When a student is transitioning into adulthood, they have to learn to manage their schedule and stick to it. This requires both organization and focus. When students lack these skills, it can impact their ability to finish assignments, show up on time, and stick to a schedule.

Socializing With ADHD

In college, students will be exposed to many different social situations. For those with ADHD, this can be very challenging, especially if hyperactive symptoms are prevalent. These symptoms include the following:

  • Interrupting others

  • Excess talking

  • Answering questions before another person is finished

  • Losing track or not being able to focus on others as they share

These difficulties can create a sense of loneliness in a new college environment.


College courses take focus and listening. Being impulsive means acting without thinking. In college, this can mean getting distracted and not finishing a project that is due, interrupting another classmate, or losing focus in the middle of class. It is important to note that impulsive behavior, to some degree, is normal, especially among college students. However, impulsivity in ADHD impacts the ability to function normally in multiple situations, including in college.

Substance Use With ADHD

Drugs and alcohol are found on many college campuses. However, research shows that students with ADHD report greater substance use than other students. This increased substance use can impact a student's ability to be successful and overall mental health.

Tips for College Students With ADHD

While students with ADHD will come up against many challenges, some tools can help. Each individual will have different challenges and find success with tools that are individualized to fit their needs. At Northwest College Support, we find that sustainable interventions suit each student. However, below we will discuss some tips that can help too.

Starting the Day On Time

Beginning the day on schedule is important. It can help to start the day organized. Common issues are waking up late, being disorganized, and struggling to get out of the door. Methods that can help include the following.

  • Setting two alarm clocks

  • Having your clothes and books set out for the next day

  • Using a timer to remind you when to leave

  • Leaving yourself a reminder note on your to-go bag

Regardless of what you choose, the goal is to set yourself up for success from the moment you wake up.

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

Making and keeping a schedule is commonly a challenge for students with ADHD. However, it is incredibly important to help keep organized. A schedule can help to decrease being distracted by following what you previously set up to do. It can also improve success in activities that are not automatically structured, such as studying. A schedule is a way to organize things you need to get done to be successful in college.

Assess Priorities and Plans Regularly

Whether it is your schedule or goals, assessing priorities and plans can help. Setting up a time each week to reflect on how your schedule worked for you and what you need to adjust going forward can help improve success. Regularly considering priorities is a method that can help you to make adjustments necessary to finish a paper or a big project. Without assessing priorities, it can be easy for students with ADHD to get sidetracked and distracted.

Manage Using Medication and Support for ADHD

For some students, medication and mental health care can help. Finding an organization that may include a mental health care professional, life coach, and/or educational health can also improve a student's success. Remember, you do not have to move through this transition alone. Reaching out and trying different types of support can take time, and it takes some experimentation to find the perfect fit for you.

ADHD can cause many difficulties for college students as they make the transition to living independently. Symptoms that carry into adulthood can make completing projects, finishing homework, and building relationships very difficult. At Northwest College Support, we offer multiple programs that help each individual student find solutions to their specific needs. We believe that every student has a voice, and we work to help them develop tools to thrive in college. If you or your college student is in need of mental health support, we can help. To learn more about our programs and how we can help, call us at (877) 485-2776. We can help your student find success in college that works for them.

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