Attending College College With Attention Deficit Disorder: Advice for Students

Page content

Students with attention deficit disorder often face a daunting transition from high school to college. ADD affects a student’s time management and organizational skills, and causes difficulties in concentrating and focusing. The results lead to poor academic performance with problems taking notes, reading texts, and completing assignments.

This learning disability can also cause low self-esteem and personal problems, such as inappropriate social skills, confusion over setting goals and prioritizing, sleeping disturbances, and difficulties with getting up in the morning. Combinations of these academic and personal problems make dealing with college and attention deficit disorder really frustrating.

Learn to Advocate for Yourself

College students with attention deficit disorder must realize the differences between high school and college. Unlike the public school system, which identified students with disabilities and accommodated their needs, college students with disabilities have the responsibility of identifying themselves – or not. If students require any accommodations and supports in the college classroom, and they often do, they must visit the college’s office of disability support services and provide current documentation of their disability. They will then talk to a counselor who will discuss appropriate accommodations that can be provided to the student. Some of these accommodations can include:

  • peer note–takers;
  • extended time for tests;
  • test-taking in a separate, non-distracting environment;
  • audio textbooks;
  • assistive technologies such as voice–activated software, books on tape, and outlining computer programs;
  • priority registration;
  • course substitution, and;
  • reduced course load.

College students with attention deficit disorder need to advocate for themselves. Students should introduce themselves to professors and inform them of their need for accommodations, which will usually be documented in writing. Developing a rapport with professors allows students to ask questions individually and receive assistance in how to successfully learn the material.

For some students with attention deficit disorder, a coach may be needed to improve academic performance and foster social success. Although a relative or a friend can act as a coach, a professional can be hired. Coaches tailor their services to the individual student and help them reach their full potential in working on academic, social, and other goals. Students and their coaches talk regularly and identify strategies to stay organized, prioritize, and make better use of time. In addition, a coach can help students improve personal relationships with relatives, friends, peers, and professors.

Personal responsibility should also be taken by students dealing with college and attention deficit disorder. If they take medication, students should do so regularly to help control their symptoms. Students should develop strategies to reduce stress, such as practicing good self–care, getting adequate sleep, and exercising. Establishing supportive relationships with physicians, counselors, and peers is helpful, too, in coping with this disability. College students should take advantage of on-campus tutoring, assistance from the campus writing center, and peer support in study groups. By being prepared and receiving support and encouragement, both academically and socially, college can be the positive experience of personal growth and learning that it is meant to be.


Attention Deficit Disorder Resources. (n.d.). College issues for students with ADHD. Retrieved May 21, 2010, from