How to Survive College With Attention Deficit Disorder

Four Parts:Making Smart Choices About SchoolWorking Through Difficulties Related to ADD at SchoolRecognizing the Symptoms of ADDTreating Your ADD

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a very common condition that can cause college students to appear socially immature, overly hyperactive, inattentive, forgetful, or many other side effects that make life more difficult. However, these symptoms can manifest differently for everyone who suffers from this condition. And a diagnosis of ADD does not mean that students can’t be successful in college. With a little effort and research, you can overcome your ADD and accomplish all of your goals in college.

Part 1
Making Smart Choices About School

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    Register with your university’s Office of Student Disability Services. If you register and provide the office with the proper documentation (usually just a note from your doctor), then the Disability Office will provide you with a letter of accommodation to give to all of your professors.[1]
    • This letter will tell your teachers what special considerations you need from them in order to be successful in their class. By law, your teachers are required to adhere to any accommodations listed in the letter.
    • This could include things like no penalties for arriving late to class, extended deadlines on homework assignments, or even being allowed to take quizzes and tests in a quiet place without distractions.
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    Decide whether or not it would be a good idea to lighten your course load. Some students with ADD work better with a lighter load, and there's no shame in that. Others might find that they can handle the average amount or even more, and it is up to you to find the number of classes that suits you best. If you are taking a bunch of classes, and you feel you can handle it, do not let people tell you that you are incapable of managing it.
    • Like a non-disabled student, if you feel stressed about the workload, you might want to lighten the amount that you take.
    • Try not to do things that overwhelm you, or make you feel uncomfortable. For some, for example, taking classes back to back might be too much, and scheduling them further apart might be helpful.
    • Consider the amount of reading and homework for each class that you take.
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    Take online classes. Physical classrooms can pose challenges for people with ADD. You may find yourself distracted by other students. Sitting still may also be quite difficult for you. But an online class may be easier because you can study at your own pace and do not have the distractions of other aspects of college life.
    • Try creating a study space that is separate from where you usually do fun things (such as browsing the internet or going on social media). This can help you remember to stay on track.
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    Try to schedule classes and study when you feel most alert. This may coincide with when your medications are in full effect. In the evening, the medications may start to "wear out," making it harder to study or pay attention.[2]
    • Schedule yourself downtime when you know you'll have a hard time focusing. Treat this as a mandatory mental health break, so you can enjoy your free time with no guilt.

Part 2
Working Through Difficulties Related to ADD at School

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    Don't overload yourself. People with ADD often have trouble managing too many things at once, so try to avoid doing too much at one time. Be mindful of how many tasks you are trying to accomplish and minimize how many things you allow yourself to focus on or stress out about.
    • The number of classes you can handle may vary based on the difficulty of your classes. Learn which classes are notorious for being hard and assigning lots of work, so you can be prepared.
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    Stay organized. An important way for you to reduce your stress levels during college will be to work on staying organized. Try making checklists to help you keep track of assignments and appointments as well as other tasks you need to complete.[3]
    • Planning ahead and keeping track of deadlines will help you minimize stress.
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    Try to explain your ADD to your roommates. This is especially important if you are hyperactive. You might say things that may offend people, talk too much, and do other quirks that might bother other people.[4]
    • Of course, only discuss your condition with your roommates if you are comfortable with it. Your medical conditions are no one else’s business unless you choose to tell them about it.
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    Listen to soothing music while studying. Music that is too loud, such as rap, can be distracting for people with ADD. This is especially true when you are trying to focus on something like when you are studying.
    • Instead, try to listen to more calm, soothing music like classical or country.
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    Figure out where to get your medication refilled. College is an exciting time of transition, but it also means more adult responsibility. One of the biggest problems for college students with ADD is figuring out where to get their medications. This is something you should discuss with your parents or your insurance provider. Find a pharmacy that works for you and your medication needs.[5]

Part 3
Recognizing the Symptoms of ADD

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    Decide if you have trouble concentrating. If you have Attention Deficit Disorder, you might often struggle with your ability to concentrate on the task at hand. You might be easily distracted by other things going on around you and become bored easily.[6]
    • This symptom might be noticeable if you zone out while doing other things (even when having conversations) or if you have difficulty focusing when you are reading or listening to someone speak.
    • If you have ADD, you might be categorized as a poor listener because you may have trouble focusing on one thing at a time – like when someone is talking to you.[7]
    • Because it may be hard for you to focus and you become distracted easily, you might often overlook details in your work and struggle to complete even seemingly simple tasks.
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    Recognize if you are disorganized and forgetful. Since people with ADD usually have trouble concentrating fully on certain tasks, you might frequently appear forgetful and disorganized. You may struggle with beginning and finishing projects because you procrastinate. [8]
    • Some signs of this symptom include losing or misplacing important objects (wallet, phone, keys, etc.), constantly being late or forgetting important deadlines, and missing appointments altogether.
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    Consider if you often exhibit impulsive behavior. For people with ADD, a common side effect is trouble focusing on a single task. In situations like this, you might act impulsively. This is often because you struggle with controlling or inhibiting your behavior.[9]
    • You might interrupt others or say something inappropriate because you spoke before thinking.
    • You might have poor self-control or addictive tendencies.
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    Determine if you often become hyperfocused on certain tasks. Even though ADD is often diagnosed by a person’s inability to focus on tasks at hand, another symptom of the disability is that you can become overly focused on tasks that you find stimulating or interesting. [10]
    • If you are hyperfocused on a task, you tune out everything else around you and often lose track of time. This can be very useful, but can also result in not finishing things that you need to because you are so focused on the one thing you are doing.
    • This symptom can be managed with tools such as a light-up timer, that will tell you when it's time to switch gears.
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    Decide if you have difficulty handling emotions. If you struggle with ADD, you might have trouble dealing with your emotions. This can manifest through irritability and mood swings, or even through a short temper.
    • You might have feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem.
    • You often feel stressed about your life and become flustered easily.
    • Sometimes you might not respond well to criticism, even if it is well-intentioned.
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    Determine if you frequently feel restless. This symptom is similar to how children with ADD are usually diagnosed. Even adults who suffer from this disorder typically show signs of hyperactivity or restlessness. You might appear to have a lot of energy and trouble staying still.[11]
    • If you have ADD, you might feel like your mind is constantly racing.

Part 4
Treating Your ADD

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    Go see a doctor. If you have ADD and it is making your life harder, one of the best things you can do is to go see your doctor. Getting properly diagnosed by a medical professional will help you figure out what steps are next.[12]
    • A doctor can also prescribe you medication for ADD that could significantly improve your ability to function.
    • You can also take an online ADD test to compare your own symptoms with common symptoms of ADD.[13] But this kind of test should never be used as a substitute for advice from a real medical professional.
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    Take your medications. Medications are no miracle cure, but they help improve the symptoms. If your doctor prescribes you some medication for ADD, make sure you follow through with taking it. Remember to take it at the desired time daily.
    • The most common prescribed medication for people with Attention Deficit Disorder is Adderall.[14]
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    Go to counseling regularly. Seeing a counselor regularly about your ADD can significantly improve your ability to handle your condition and cope with the symptoms. Therapists usually employ cognitive behavioral therapy to help you change negative thinking patterns, specifically those related to your condition.[15]
    • Counseling could help you improve your self-esteem, learn how to manage your time more effectively, improve your relationships, or cope with other difficulties in your life.


  • Never let anyone else take your medication.
  • Adderall is a pretty dangerous narcotic for people that don't have ADD, so store your medications in a safe place.
  • Don't abuse Adderall, even if you are using it as a "study buddy."

Article Info

Categories: Attention and Developmental Disorders | College University and Postgraduate