Starting college is one of many big transitions in education and life skills for our kids with ADHD. Your student might have a strong start with high school successes. Now is the time to plan for thriving in a new environment. Begin by talking through these strategies for students starting or continuing their education.
Be prepared for classes with trusted tools and a time management plan.
Unlike high school with lots of structure, starting college creates demands on executive function with time management, routines, and distractions. Know what you will use as a planner and how you will set up your time by attending class, setting up a time to study, and knowing when you have time to go out. At first, this is hard because you are not sure how much time your out-of-class assignments will take. Handle this by setting up study time in a variety of locations to get accustomed to the routines of studying and the demands of classwork. Set up your class schedule so that your daily routine is similar every day.
Capture information and prioritize your time. Record everything in your planner and use a task list if you need to be sure of all your assignments. Add a chart with your schedule in writing or program reminders on your smartphone. Prioritize important activities so that you earn the grades you want.
Build a support system
Transition to college is starting over with support. Creating a support system for when things get rough is your best first step on campus. Find the right support on campus at the disabilities office and check out the academic success office. Both are easy ways to find strong support academically immediately. For health, check out the on-campus health clinic. Your medication can be sent locally to the pharmacy in your new town. You can hire a coach or talk with a campus counselor when you feel overwhelmed.
Set up automated reminders for routines and reminders
Automation is a wonderful way to be sure stuff gets done. Reminder apps are helpful for making new routines and supporting existing routines. This will help you remember your medication, when to get to class and when to start your new school work routine. Set up automated refills for your medication through your pharmacy.
Organize your stuff
College dorm rooms are tiny, shared spaces. A lot of order and just a little stuff makes it easy to organize. If you have too much, bring some stuff home during breaks. Be sure your valuables, including your medicine, are safely stored, and organized. Most of your schoolwork will be digital so stay organized online with digital folders. Store what you use frequently with easy access and portability. Work with an ADHD coach or ask an organized friend for help.
There are more responsibilities as you are on your own and become independent. That is laundry, meals, and finances to learn about and master. You are practicing these from the start as you incorporate these responsibilities into each week at college. If you find that you are without funds, falling behind in laundry, or generally lacking self-care, it’s time to think about the process. An ADHD coach can help you set a schedule for these life learning skills.
Learning about finances takes time. In the beginning, it is about keeping within a budget, which is likely new. Try setting a weekly budget for specific types of spending to track what you are spending. Write a list of what these are and track them. You can start tracking your spending with Mint or Every Dollar.
All night studying, late-night parties keep you from getting a good night’s rest. Junk food and vending machines are not the best for ADHD brains. Sitting all day without walking or exercising can keep you from sharp thinking. All of this is to say keep your self-care a priority by taking walks, eating healthy, and getting 8 hours of sleep as much as possible. You are thinking – everyone at college stays up late and eats junk. As a person with ADHD, this will impact you more than those with neurotypical brains.
The struggle is real
Your years away from home are times of great learning both personally and academically. Start with one area to work on and build from there. These tips are a good first start at college success. Maintaining these are the hardest part! As the semester goes on, you may feel more overwhelmed and in a rut rather than a routine. Remember that every day is a fresh start. Check-in with an ADHD Coach for a fresh perspective and get a good night’s rest.