Being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) definitely presents challenges with academics, but with some consideration, they can be overcome. Here are some simple ideas that may help you address the challenges of college life:
- Take inventory of your strengths. Having an awareness of your strengths allows you to maximize them to compensate for areas of weakness.
- Face your challenges head on. Identify what they are, prioritize the ones that are affecting your life the most, and then set up systems that work for you. For example, set reminders on your phone, make lists, set your phone up to receive email, create a simple spot to put all of your important papers. Remember that it is not a failure if a system starts to become less effective. Just like computers, over time we will need to update our systems.
- Don’t rely on your memory for details. When an assignment is given or an appointment made, put it on paper or in a task on your phone or computer right away.
- Take advantage of accommodations. If you have academic accommodations, make sure that your college is aware of them. Most schools require the student to initiate the use of accommodations, so remember to provide your professors with documentation of your accommodations (usually a letter written by your advisor or another administrator) at the beginning of each semester.
- Communicate. The more you communicate with your professors, the more likely they are to work with you. For example, a professor is much more likely to extend a deadline if you talk to him or her early in the process. But even if it is late in the process, communicate!
- Use available resources. Take advantage of services that your college offers. Many schools have writing centers, academic and ADHD coaches, counseling, and other services that can provide support and advisement.
- Avoid avoiding. Avoidance is a favorite coping strategy of people with ADHD. It’s easy to fall into the trap of distracting yourself from situations that are confusing, difficult, or overwhelming. The shortcoming of this method of coping, though, is that the problem will still be there when you stop avoiding and will likely have grown.
- Get help quickly. If things start to feel out of control or you start to feel you may be failing classes, talk to someone quickly – don’t wait! The earlier you begin to problem solve, the more salvageable your semester is. Not sure who to talk to? Try your advisor, an academic coach, or your parents. Each of these people is invested in your success at school and may have fresh ideas for managing stumbling blocks.
- Celebrate successes. Don’t forget to enjoy when things go well. Celebrate even the small successes – setting up a system for yourself that works, handing in assignments on time, following through on a commitment. And definitely celebrate the big successes – like passing your classes!
Hallowell, Edward M. and John J. Ratey. Answers to Distraction. New York: Pantheon Books; 1994.
Hallowell, Edward M. and John J. Ratey. Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder. New York: Ballantine Books; 2005.
Hallowell, Edward M. and John J. Ratey. Driven To Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood. New York: Touchstone; 1994.
Sarkis, Stephanie Moulton. Making the Grade with ADD. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.; 2008.