Smart Q & A: How can a teen succeed in college with AD/HD?

Ask Smart College VisitQUESTION:

What does a teen with AD/HD need to do to make a successful transition to college?

From: Robin Roman Wright, founder, Robin Roman Wright Consulting

Rising college freshmen with AD/HD can have an exciting, fruitful and successful first year in school. However, there are some helpful steps that students with AD/HD can take before going to school, during their first few days at school, and throughout the first semester that will help them to make a successful transition.

The following list is not exhaustive but is what I recommend to my bright, creative AD/HD clients who are starting college.

Before You Go: Think about your learning style. Identify your preferred learning style so that you can either choose courses based on Professor’s teaching styles or adapt your study approach when taking a course where the Professor teaches in a way that doesn’t match your preferred style.

  • Some students do better listening to lectures.
  • Some students need written notes in order to listen most productively.
  • Some students thrive in classes where the Professor encourages discussion.
  • Some students like to refer back to a text book in order to truly learn the subject at hand.

Find out if the school has a Disability Office or an Academic Support Office:

Many schools have a Disability Office that will help students who have AD/HD or other learning disabilities navigate the transition to college and support a student by providing tutoring, a quiet space to take tests, extended time on tests, help with setting up and managing your study schedule, etc. Usually, you can check out the intake process and forms needed online prior to talking to someone. If you want to make use of any of these services, contact the office early, before the semester begins. There is usually a process to getting approved and this can take time.

Find out if the school has academic support services for the student body as a whole.

Colleges usually have academic support resources for college freshman that are open to all students.  I encourage students to make use of these resources early and often.  This often includes a Writing Center for help with writing assignments, Peer Tutors and sometimes Time Management Mentors.


  • Print out the Academic Calendar for the First Semester.
  • Particularly make note of Add/Drop Dates.
  • Check out when holidays are scheduled.
  • Note mid-term and final exam schedules.
  • Set 1st Semester Goals:
    • What will my GPA goal be?
    • What do I want to learn or explore as a college student — what subjects really interest me?
    • Should I become involved in extracurricular activities? How many? Which ones?

During Your First Week of Classes: THE MUST DOS

  • Carefully review each course syllabus.
  • Make note of when the professor hosts office hours.
  • Make note of the key assignments such as a 5-page paper or mid-term and final exam dates.
  • Note the Professor’s teaching style – if it is problematic for you, contact your advisor to see if there is another Professor, teaching a different section, whose teaching style might be better for you.
  • Buy the recommended text books.  Many students are trying to be frugal by not buying the text book.  Discuss this situation with your parents if you are worried about finances.  Many parents would prefer to save money in other ways.
  • Make a timeline for your day.
  • Block time for class, to study, eat and sleep.
  • Note when meals are served in the dining hall.
  • Locate the support resources at your school, maybe even drop by to check them out–The Writing Center, the office that arranges Peer Tutors, etc.

During the Semester

  • Identify a parent, relative,  trusted friend,  Peer Tutor,  Time Management Mentor, AD/HD Coach who you can check in with once a week to discuss issues that you might be having keeping up with reading assignments, getting started on papers or projects, etc.
  • When/if you find yourself getting behind or obtaining a lower grade than you want, see your Professor, visit the appropriate support resource center, and/or talk to your Advisor sooner rather than later.
  • Review your goals and timeline throughout the semester.
  • At mid-terms assess how you are doing.  Is your schedule working?  Are you caught up in your reading?  Are your grades what you would like them to be?  If not seek help.
  • Your first set of final exams requires special attention.  Set up a study plan well in advance of the first exam.

Most of what I have covered above relates to a student’s academic studies at college. College involves much more than your studies, but you want to pay attention to your progress during your first semester so that you can start off on the right foot.  As you set off to college, even though you are “striking out on your own,” know that there are many people at the school who will help you should hit any roadblocks or need some support during the first semester.

BIO: Robin Roman Wright provides career coaching and AD/HD coaching privately to teens and young adults ages 15–29 in Greater Boston. She specifically targets this age group because she enjoys helping young people find their niche, succeed in school, and launch into the world of work and business.

Z. Kelly Queijo

Author: Z. Kelly Queijo

Kelly is founder of Smart College Visit and Smart College Consulting. When she's not creating content for the blog or clients, tweeting, or hosting #CampusChat, she's planning her next mobile move.

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