ADHD College Survival Guide

October 26, 2017

How to manage ADHD in college

College is a challenge for most people. After high school, the freedom of setting your own schedule, not having to answer to parents, and living on your own can make for a rocky adjustment. And many times, this adjustment is even rockier for people with ADHD.

Sometimes what has been working for you in the past suddenly doesn’t fit into a college lifestyle. With finals not too far on the horizon, we wanted to put together a list of study tips to hopefully help you before it’s crunch time. We read ADHD forums, talked to college students, and found studies that back up these study methods, so they just might work for you too.

  1. Regulate Device Usage
    We know it’s unrealistic to tell college students to leave their phone at home or to turn it off during a study session. Instead, you can change how you use it. Something as simple as setting your phone down out of arm’s reach can be enough to stop the reflexive checking that most of us do. This trick helps because we’re lazy by default. By having to choose to stand up to check your phone, you’ll simply do it less.

    Similarly, when using your laptop, if you don’t have to be using the internet, turn off the Wi-Fi. The same principle applies to your computer as with your phone – having to make the choice to turn the Wi-Fi back on is enough effort that it should deter you from mindlessly logging online. But if you do have to be using the internet, you could try disabling your bookmarks to make websites more than just one click away.

  2. Study Alone (or at least without your friends)
    If you’re used to studying in groups and you haven’t seen an improvement in your grades, maybe the people you’re studying with are the wrong crowd for you. It may be tempting to study with friends, but it’s also too tempting to talk to them about weekend plans or what happened on the last Game of Thrones episode.

    Find a group that’s focused on studying, or try studying alone. If you choose to study alone, talk to yourself out loud. Imagine you’re explaining your study material to someone who knows nothing about the topic – it’ll help you understand just how well you grasp the concepts. Even if you’re just memorizing definitions, say the definitions out loud. Having to articulate an idea helps with focus and memory.

  3. Get Weird
    Mnemonic devices are a great way to commit things to memory. You might remember “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” as a mnemonic devise to remember “PEMDAS”– the Order of Operations from math class. But keep in mind that outrageous mental images will also work well. Say you’re studying chemistry and need to remember that ethyl alcohol is the kind of alcohol in alcoholic drinks. You could imagine an old woman named Ethel drinking a martini. Chances are, you’ll remember that when it’s test time.
  4. Have a Social Life
    This one might sound a bit counterproductive, but this tactic totally works for some people. If you’re the kind of person who is motivated by spending time with friends, use that to your advantage. Rather than skipping out on a hangout session, use it as a way to manage your time. If your friends are hanging out at 9pm, then you have until 9pm to write your paper.

    This works for some people with ADHD because rather than giving yourself an indefinite amount of time to work on an assignment, you now have to buckle down and focus to reach your goal of 9pm. Not to mention, being around people you care about simply makes you feel good, which you need after a long study session.

  5. Set Timers
    If time management is a struggle for you, this might help. Try setting a timer for 15 minute intervals purely to help you better grasp how you’re spending your time. It’s all too easy for someone with ADHD to spend an hour watching YouTube videos without realizing just how long they were doing it for. Setting timers for short intervals will help snap you out of hyperfocus mode and remind you that you’ve spent too long being unproductive.

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Everyday Health. (2010). Adult ADHD: The Need for Time Management. Retrieved from
https://www.everydayhealth.com/adhd-photos/9-time-management-tips-for-adult-adhd.aspx#06
Goldman, Bruce. (2017, September 28). Study Shows How ‘Love Hormone’ Spurs Sociability. Retrieved from https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2017/09/study-shows-how-love-hormone-spurs-sociability.html
Markman, Art, Ph.D. (2010, May 11). Say it Loud: I’m Creating a Distinctive Memory. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201005/say-it-loud-i-m-creating-distinctive-memory
Mitchell, Aric. (2015). 7 Study Distractions and How Best to Escape Them. Retrieved from https://blog.4tests.com/7-study-distractions-and-how-best-to-escape-them/
Psych Central. (2016). Memory and Mnemonic Devices. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/memory-and-mnemonic-devices/
Mitchell, Aric. (2015). 7 Study Distractions and How Best to Escape Them. Retrieved from https://blog.4tests.com/7-study-distractions-and-how-best-to-escape-them/
Goldman, Bruce. (2017, September 28). Study Shows How ‘Love Hormone’ Spurs Sociability. Retrieved from https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2017/09/study-shows-how-love-hormone-spurs-sociability.html
Everyday Health. (2010). Adult ADHD: The Need for Time Management. Retrieved from
https://www.everydayhealth.com/adhd-photos/9-time-management-tips-for-adult-adhd.aspx#06