Adjusting to College for Those with ADHD/ADD

Coming to college is a huge life change, whether it’s your first time or you're going back to school. It’s even more of a change when factoring in ADHD/ADD. The structure from high school is no more: classes can be any time of the day, and some will run into the evening instead of being in an eight-hour block. For people with ADHD/ADD who have a hard time focusing for long periods of time, this is great, and for others, it sucks. It all depends on the type of ADHD/ADD and how it affects your life. 

I understand this very well, because I've been diagnosed with ADD since the age of 7. For me, college was a major change, and it took a lot of time and effort to adjust. Here are some things that I want to pass on to anyone just starting their college journey with ADHD/ADD. (Keep in mind, however, that this is highly personal for each individual, so please talk to your health care provider about your treatment. If you have a system that already works for you, FANTASTIC! Keep it up!)

The biggest suggestion I have would be to create a solid routine. Have blocks in the day or night that are dedicated to studying and classwork. The largest benefit of this is that it will make sure you rarely skip it to do something else, so, when classes get harder, you’ve built a routine around when you eat, go to classes, study, hang out with friends, and go to club events. You develop a rhythm and pattern that works for your schedule and thought process.

Planners are amazing tools when you personalize them for you. I used planners a lot in high school but they never really fit perfectly; after spending two years looking for a solution, I found that having a bullet journal really helped. It's improved my productivity, as I have personalized it for how my thought process works and what I know will help me keep track of appointments, tests, assignments, club meetings, etc. The best part is that no two bullet journals will ever be the same, since not everyone organizes things the same way, and it doesn’t have to be in a fancy planner unless you want it to be: it could just be a notebook to scribble in due dates and to do’s if that’s what works.  If you’re looking for how to get started, check out the link at the end for tips on how to set up a bullet journal that’s ADHD/ADD friendly.

Make a study buddy in your classes where you can. I know everyone tells you this, but it’s honestly true.  Having someone to study with can help you keep on top of your work, and if there’s something that you’re struggling with, you can ask them. There’s also the added bonus of potentially making a friend at the end of the class.

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If you take medication to help you treat your ADHD/ADD, talk to your doctor about going to college and what you both can do to help with the transition. That can range anywhere from changing dosages to account for not being in school for eight straight hours. Do whatever you feel comfortable with changing heading into college. 

Taking a yoga or meditation class can also be really helpful to have some quiet, peaceful moments in college when everything else is chaos. If yoga or meditation isn’t your thing, set routine times of going to the gym for a run on the track or one of more cardio-oriented group fitness classes; even if it’s once a week, take that time for yourself. In the end, you will have done some good exercise and released a bunch of good chemicals into your brain. 

Last but not least, talk to the disability center on campus. They can help you with getting extra time on exams if that’s something you’re eligible for. It is a bit of work to get the paperwork done, but in the end, you’re here and your professors want you to succeed and will make those accommodations for you. They do have to be notified, and I get that that’s scary, but you need to do what’s best for you in this regard.

The biggest factor when coming to college is to take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health. Setting those boundaries and habits now will make a world of difference when classes are bearing down and if there’s any friendship drama. You’re prepared for anything. 

For more information on the disability, center visit their website here: https://uncw.edu/disability/about/index.html

For more information on how to create a bullet journal for ADHD/ADD here’s a YouTube tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkZEEQG6IVE

(images courtesy of Dribble and unsplash)