Surviving College When You Have ADHD
Soon many college Freshmen will be beginning their first semester at college. Some of these students will be doing so with an advantage I did not have—the knowledge that they have ADHD. This is a powerful thing to have. Knowing what you are working with (or against, as the case might be) is going to be a great benefit to you.
Don’t Make Impulsive Spending Worse Than It Already Is
One thing ADHDers commonly do is spend money impulsively. There are steps you can take to curb this problem and lessen the effects of doing so. One thing you can do to make the consequences of impulsive spending less dire, and that is to make a frugal choice of school. This boat may have sailed on this one for some of you, but if you have not decided yet or if you decide to transfer, I want you to know the amount of money you spend does not have any influence on the quality fo education you receive. The best college professor I had went to a state school, and the schools that best prepare students for the workforce and have the best job placement are community colleges and tech schools. Take it from someone who regrets going to the two private schools I attended: State schools and two-year colleges are the way to go.
Talk to Your Professors
Getting to know your instructors is never a bad idea. They will be impressed by your initiative. If they know you, they will be more willing and better able to help you with your coursework. You do not necessarily need to say you have ADHD, but you might make vague references to some of your particular ADHD challenges.
If you go to a small school, this conversation will be easier. If you are at a larger university, you might have to go through a TA.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is crazy important. There are numerous benefits associated with sleep, including but limited to improved academic performance, happiness, and a decreased likelihood of binge eating (Want to avoid the Freshman 15? Get plenty of sleep). Do not EVER pull an all-nighter. Studies have shown you are better off getting more sleep than staying up late to study. You might get some grief from other students, but trust me. You will be better off with a regular sleep schedule.
Also, I highly recommend a sleep mask and some ear plugs. College dorms are not the most sleep-friendly environments. To combat the interruptions from other people in your dorm, take some steps to make sure your sleep is not interrupted by lights or noise.
I have written numerous times on the importance of connecting with others, and college life is definitely an example of where it can be beneficial. College is a stressful time. You are away from home (usually for the first time ever), your routines are different, and your school work is about to get a lot harder. The support of friends will help you through the challenges of this stage of your life.
Be on Good Terms with Your RA
The resident assistant on/in your floor/wing is there for your benefit (my first RA actually did $5 haircuts). Generally speaking, they want to be your friend. They are also there to enforce the rules. If you are on good terms with them, they will be more willing to help you out and help things go smoothly. If you can, get their cell number so you can text or call them if, say, you hear a bunch of drunk dudes banging up against your door and saying things like, “I’m great at picking locks!” (True story)
Check in with Student Services
After my ADHD diagnosis just before my final year of undergrad, I went to my school’s student services department to see what they could offer me. I didn’t find any of their offerings helpful. However, in hindsight, I would have liked to have tried some of them. Also, the classes I was taking at the time were not overly challenging (I tried to set myself up for a slack senior year). If I had the option earlier in my academic career, I would have taken them up on their offer of extra time on tests (My individual income tax class was brutal).
It does no harm to at least register your ADHD diagnosis with the student services department. You do not have to accept any accommodations, but they will be there if/when you decide you want them. While getting my master’s degree, I didn’t bother to check in with the student services department until I was already behind in one of my courses halfway through the program. When I did reach out, I discovered they offered a program that would read text to you to all students for free. This helped me keep up with the reading, which was the main reason I reached out to them. In the middle of the program, it would have been hard to get a doctor’s note, send it to them, and get the accommodations I desired. Having that all set up incase you need it is not a bad idea.
Schedule All Morning Classes (If You Can)
Here me out on this one! My first semester of college, my courses were scheduled for me. Initially, I was dismayed to see that all of my classes were scheduled for the morning. However, I soon appreciated this. I could go to class in the morning, do homework in the afternoon, and have all of my evenings free. This will help you be productive in the three key areas of your college life: Sleep, school, and social.
Yes, school is important, but it is not the final word on your value. You are not defined by your academic performance. Once you get out in the workforce, what grades you received will become less and less important.
If you find out you don’t like the school you are attending, you can always transfer. That is not a big deal. I did it, and I know plenty of other people who did as well.
College is stressful. A good attitude will go a long ways towards helping you get through it. The college experience is a small fraction of your time here on Earth. If it doesn’t go well, your life is not over.
Remember That I Am Rooting for You!
I want you to succeed. Even though I do not know you, I am rooting for you to excel in college (and I don’t define excelling just by academic success). If you need help, feel free to contact me. If you feel like you need some coaching to get through college, click here.