College for Students with ADD/ADHD

To be a successful college student, certain skills and tools must be in place to support the academic journey. As it turns out, these skills are not only essential for learning at higher levels but also necessary for careers and life.

(This is Part 2, of our three-story series on Surviving College for Students with ADD/ADHD The last of this series will be published June 4. Part 1 was on Surviving College for Students with ADD/ADHD and Executive Function Challenges, part 1)

College students with ADD/ADHD often struggle with executive function, which can make it challenging to keep up with the demands of college life. 

Executive functions are cognitive skills that enable one to plan, organize, prioritize, initiate, and complete tasks effectively. For college students, especially those with ADD/ADHD, using executive functions is essential for academic success. 

Here are some ways college students can use and apply executive functions to improve their academic performance and overall well-being:

Set Goals

Setting specific, achievable, and time-bound goals is a crucial aspect of executive functioning. College students can set academic goals, such as improving grades or completing a challenging course, and personal goals, such as learning a new skill or developing healthy habits. By setting goals, students can prioritize their tasks, stay motivated, and track their progress.

Create a Routine

Establishing a routine is an effective way to manage time and reduce the likelihood of procrastination. College students can create a schedule and use a planner that includes study time, exercise, meals, and other activities. A consistent routine helps students stay organized and reduces the stress of last-minute deadlines. 

Use Technology

There are many apps and tools available that can assist with executive functioning. For example, time-management apps can help students track their progress and stay on schedule. Note-taking apps can help students organize their notes and study materials. Focus apps can block distracting websites or apps and keep students on task.

Prioritize Tasks

Breaking down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable ones is a key executive function skill. College students can prioritize their tasks by identifying the most critical ones and completing them first. This approach helps students avoid feeling overwhelmed and improves their productivity.

Practice Self-Control

Self-control is the ability to resist impulsive behavior and stay focused on long-term goals. College students can practice self-control by avoiding distractions, managing stress, and staying motivated. Developing self-control helps students avoid procrastination, improve their time management, and reduce anxiety.

Executive functions are essential for college students with ADD/ADHD, and indeed every student. By setting goals, creating a routine, using technology, prioritizing tasks, and practicing self-control, students can improve their academic performance, manage their time effectively, and reduce stress. 

While important for achieving good grades, executive functions also serve to minimize stress and decrease the anxiety of feeling overwhelmed.

While developing executive function skills can be challenging, with practice, college students can master these skills and achieve their goals.

Here are the dos and don’ts of executive function.

The Dos of Executive Function:

  1. Set clear goals and objectives to help stay on track.
  2. Break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
  3. Use organizational tools, such as calendars or to-do lists, to keep track of deadlines and important dates.
  4. Prioritize tasks based on importance and urgency.
  5. Regularly review progress and adjust plans as needed.
  6. Practice self-reflection and identify areas for improvement.
  7. Use positive self-talk to boost confidence and motivation.
  8. Stay focused on one task at a time to avoid distractions.
  9. Use effective study techniques, such as active reading or note-taking, to enhance retention and comprehension.
  10. Regularly practice stress-management techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to reduce anxiety and improve focus.

The Don’ts of Executive Function:

  1. Don’t rely solely on memory to keep track of important deadlines and tasks.
  2. Don’t procrastinate or leave tasks until the last minute.
  3. Don’t overcommit or take on too many tasks at once.
  4. Don’t allow distractions, such as social media or email notifications, to interfere with focus and concentration.
  5. Don’t become overwhelmed by complex tasks or projects.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support when needed.
  7. Don’t be overly critical of yourself, instead focus on areas of improvement.
  8. Don’t let negative self-talk undermine confidence and motivation.
  9. Don’t neglect self-care and rest, as this can negatively impact focus and concentration.
  10. Don’t give up easily when faced with challenges or setbacks, instead approach them as opportunities for growth and learning.

Support Your Student

For more tips to help students with ADD/ADHD excel in their studies, check out our blog.

Sending your student to college in the fall? Send them with the tools they need to be successful.
Learn more: Crash Course in College Study Skills

Sometimes, college students need a little extra support in time management, prioritization, organization, and study skills. Our Success in College program will set up your student for academic success from the moment they attend their first class to when they take their finals and hand in their last term paper.
Learn more: The Success in College Program

A Guide to Surviving College for Students with ADD/ADHD: Part 2. How to Develop Executive Functions