ADHD College Success Tips

ivy gateMaking the transition from homeschooling high school to college can be challenging for any student, but especially so for students with ADHD. Difficulties with organization, time management, and attention can interfere with success in college. I encourage homeschooling parents of students with attention deficit to begin planning for college success as early in high school as possible. For students heading off to college consider these tips:

Realistic Course Planning

Plan out a schedule that matches well with body rhythms. Make sure to allow adequate time for rest and exercise. Many students with learning disabilities find it is helping to take a minimum full time course load the first year in college to ease into the college schedule. Taking a lighter courseload can delay progress to graduation but so will failing classes. Try to take a balance of easier and harder courses with some courses that require less reading or less writing if possible. Seek out help from advisers or the disability office to find professors and courses that will fit well with your learning style.


Many students with ADHD will benefit from receiving formal accommodations through the college disability office. Approval for accommodations typically requires up to date testing from a physician. Merely presenting evidence of a 504 or IEP in high school will not grant students accommodations in college. College disability offices will specify on their websites what sort of materials they require to evaluate the appropriateness of disability accomidations. Typically students with ADHD will need to present up to date medical testing. Once the diagnosis is established the disability office will approve specific accommodations that are appropriate for the student’s needs. Most colleges provide students with disabilities the opportunity for priority registration. Registering first can allow the student to choose a class schedule that is a good match for their needs. This allows a student to choose register for more difficult classes during the time of day when they can focus best. Particularly at bigger universities that have high registration demands this can be important. College students with ADD often get accommodations for testing. That may include extended time for testing and the opportunity to test in a quiet, distraction free environment such as a testing center.

Campus Resources

Colleges want their students to be successful and offer a wide range of supportive services. Most colleges offer tutoring services which are often free. Study skills workshops or classes may be available as well. Your college may offer a one semester course that teaches new students study skills and time management strategies. Another resource many students find helpful are campus writing and math tutoring centers. Emotional support is also available through residential life or campus mental health services. All students should be encouraged to familiarize themselves with campus resources and have a plan in place to seek out tutoring before they are behind.

Use Technology

Many students with ADHD benefit from using technological devices to assist to organization or time management. Some examples may include an iPad, vibrating watch, and timers. A wide variety of apps and programs exist to help with time reminders and attention. Experiment with different systems during the high school years if possible and find something that works.


The bottom line for all students with special needs in college is that they need to learn to become effective self-advocates. The disability office will help set up a plan of accommodations, but it is up to the individual student to carry through with getting what they need. Students will receive a letter from the disability office and then it is the student’s job to meet individually with professors to share the letter. Students need to understand their learning challenges and know when they need to ask for help.

Lifestyle and Self-Care

Successful students will pay attention to the need for exercise, relaxation, and a regular sleep schedule. Balance is the key. Students need to schedule time for study but also time for fun.


Students with ADHD may benefit from some individual coaching. Coaches can help with setting up and living with a schedule and organizational system. It is common now for parents to hire individual coaches or coaching services to help students particularly in their first year of college. One on one support can help ease the transition and increase the chance of student success. While it will be an additional expense, if it prevents a student from failing classes or delaying graduation it may ultimately lower costs.


  • This is an excellent article. And don’t forget, a lot of students may have never really been hindered by their ADHD until they hit the extra time-managment challenges of college. This isn’t just for the already-diagnosed ADHD kid.

  • Thanks for pointing out that technology can be a huge benefit to college students with ADHD as it helps them organize and manage their time. I can see how simple reminders would help someone to be on time and remember due dates and projects. I would also think that hiring a life coach who has experience working with people with ADHD could help an individual build skills which would help them succeed.

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