Study Strategies and Techniques for College Students with ADHD

As any college student will quickly discover, college life, specifically in terms of the academic demands, is vastly different from anything they may have experienced up to this point. Each college student will have to develop their own good study habits and figure out what strategies and techniques will work best for them. For a student who has ADHD, this is even more important. It may take a bit of time to determine what works best for them, but that’s okay.

In accordance with the ADA, (Americans with Disabilities Act,) colleges and universities must offer services to accommodate students who have disabilities as long as they are qualified to do the college level work. This means that instructors, administrators and other staff and faculty members are required to make accommodations for students who have disabilities. In some cases, it may be a good idea to let your professor know ahead of time that you have ADHD. That will help the professor understand you better. Tutors may be available, but don’t expect to get free tutoring.

There are many ways by which a student can study effectively and productively even when ADHD theatens to get in the way. The trick is to learn ways to work around the symptoms and difficulties that the disorder causes. Here are some ideas that are certain to be helpful. These strategies worked for me throughout graduate school and I have ADHD.

*Get an assignment notebook or day planner –

The assignment notebook is a great place to list all that you have to do on a given day. You can include everything you need to do, including errands, mundane chores, reading, written assignments, or anything else. As you complete each thing you have to do that day, check it off on the list.

*Manage your study time properly –

Nothing is more important than learning how to manage your study time when you have ADHD. The reality is that some students may be able to leave things until the end and get their work done on time. This will never happen with someone who has ADHD. It is just too hard to stay focused and concentrate on anything when you have to sit still and pay attention for many hours at one time.

Break up the work you have to do into manageable chunks. If you have 200 pages to read over the course of a week, divide those 200 pages into the number of days you have to read them in. If you can take seven days to do the reading, you’d have to read about 29 pages a day. If you only have 6 days, you’d have to read about 34 pages a day. Decide to spend blocks of time doing the reading.

If you know that you can’t sit for an hour and do the reading (if it will take an hour to read the material and take notes,) schedule two half hour periods of time that you will devote to working on that reading. If you have to do a research paper, plan blocks of time when you will work on the research paper.

*Take frequent breaks-

Allow yourself to take regular breaks. For every hour you study, allow yourself to take 10 or 15 minutes to refresh yourself.

*Figure out when you are the most productive –

People who have ADHD are often more productive at certain times of the day. If you are taking medication, figure out when the medication starts to wear off so that you know when your study time will no longer be productive. Once you know that, you can plan your schedule in such a way that you will not study at that time. For some people, as the evening progresses, they are less able to maintain focus and concentration, and armed with this knowledge, they can schedule their study time so that they are done for the day before their efforts would be unproductive and useless.

*Never pull all nighters –

ADHD presents big enough challenges as it is, and attempting to stay up all night to study is an exercise in futility. First of all, the more tired you are, the less productive your study session will be. There is no point in forcing yourself to study for something when you won’t get anything out of it anyway. You’ll be far better off if you get a decent night’s sleep and then break out the books when you are well rested and refreshed.

*Study for exams throughout the semester –

If you can manage to keep up with all of your reading and absorb what you are reading, you will never have to cram for an exam at the last minute. Spend some time at the end of each week to review your notes and mentally rehash everything you’ve done in each class during the course of the previous week.

*Tape class lectures-

Advise your professor that you have ADHD and that sometimes it’s hard for you to stay focused enough to absorb everything so you’d like to be able to tape the lectures if it is okay with the professor. You can get a mini tape recorder and mini cassettes so that you can keep a file of all of the class lectures. When you miss something in class, go back and listen to the tape again as soon as possible. Use the tape to help you fill in any spots where you missed things in your note taking.

ADHD does present serious challenges for a college student, but anyone who is motivated and determined to be successful can and will do very well. In addition to determination and motivation, a student with ADHD will need to be incredibly disciplined. Working in blocks of time can make what seems like a huge amount of work to do seem less daunting. It can also make the study time more efficient and productive.

Don’t expect perfection of yourself because that just sets you up for a great deal of disappointment. Demand that you do your best and nothing less. When you find that your grades aren’t what you want them to be, find out why you got the grade that you got. Use that information to improve on your work for the next test or assignment. College students who have ADHD can do stupendously well. They have to be willing to put forth a huge effort, be extraordinarily self disciplined, and determined to succeed.