Having ADHD in College

I have inattentive Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Like most mental disorders, ADHD affects everyone differently. For me it manifests itself in chaos and clutter, forgetfulness, a tendency to interrupt people, communicating in a roundabout manner, and an inability to balance life or to prioritize tasks.

College is a time in life for planning your future and reaching your goals. It’s also a time to transition from child to adulthood that new found freedom is stressful for everyone but it comes with a unique set of challenges when you have ADHD.


In many ways, as an ADHD person, college is a lot easier for me than high school was. In high school the days were long, there were more classes, and — no matter how many honors or AP classes I took — there was still bound to be busy work.

I didn’t realize how bored I was with high school until I came to college, I thought I was just a bad student. One of my biggest struggles with ADHD has always been motivation. I was disengaged, no matter how ambitious I wanted to be. Achieving in high school seemed nearly impossible.

In college you get to take classes you like. The work is more challenging, and there are less classes. One of the temptations for me, and my other ADHD friends, then became resisting the urge to get involved in everything. We were finally successful which meant we could do more. The necessity to bounce from high intensity project to high intensity project was suited to our ever moving minds, and the positive feedback we got for putting in our all only motivated us further. It helps too that in college (depending on the professor) there is less penalization for turning in assignments late.


In college it’s hard not to succumb to sensory overload. Without my parents there to ground me (literally and metaphorically) I had trouble figuring out how late to stay up at night, not becoming involved in every campus club that I could find, and finding the motivation to do my homework.

The flexible schedule can also be hard to navigate when you have ADHD. It’s hard not to forget that you still have a class at noon after you’re home and through with your 9 a.m. Or to get to class on time when you must tear yourself away from a discussion about socialism at The Parlor.

Being an adult also means that you have to learn to prioritize. I often find myself overwhelmed by trying to figure out what’s more important, feeding myself when I haven’t eaten in 13 hours, doing laundry (because you really can’t see my floor), or starting that paper that’s due in two days.

Tips, tricks, and advice

1. Utilize counseling services. It’s good to have someone just t talk to about all of the stress of college life. Counseling services can also help you determine strategies that help you manage you’re ADHD.

2. Try going CSSE. CSSE offers help on how to organize and manage your class load to all students. If you have a 504 plan they can make additional accommodations for you, like making sure you get extra time for tests, or hiring another student as a note taker in your classes. It’s all anonymous so other students and your professors, won’t have to know.

3. Get a planner. Whether it’s digital or old school, planners are a life saver. I’ve never had great luck with planners, I usually lose, accidentally destroy, or just forget to use them, but there really is a planner out there for everyone. I use Passion Planner, which was partially designed for people with ADHD. Do your research and figure out what works for you.

4. If you’re not on medication consider it. I didn’t start taking medication for ADHD until I was 19. Once I found something that worked I wished I had tried it sooner. Medication can be dangerous and it’s important to do your homework, and to make sure whatever you try you’re starting off on a small dose and have built a solid support system that can help you look out for side effects.

5. DO NOT take medication without a prescription. It blows my mind how many people have asked me for my pills. I’ve always said no, usually with a snide remark about how they’re too low dose to make them finish that 8 page essay in an hour. But in all seriousness medication only works effectively when it’s being prescribed for your body. Everybody reacts differently to different medications, and ADHD medication has a strong potential for abuse.

Originally published at www.hercampus.com.