How to Study Smarter When You Have ADHD in College

The transition to college can be difficult for students with ADHD. Going to college is an adjustment for anyone, but when you have ADHD, the challenges are that much greater. College is often the time where you need a new set of skills – or maybe just a tune up – to cope with ADHD. It’s the time of life where you learn to master yourself. Why now? In your life before college, high school and your parents together gave you built‐in structure and accountability. But in college you have a lot of unstructured time and you are totally in charge of making all of your own decisions.

Research shows that students with ADHD don’t need to study harder or longer, they just need to study differently. For most college students with ADHD the problem is not so much in knowing what to do, but in getting it done.Understanding how ADHD impacts your executive functioning skills – organizing, prioritizing, planning – is important for designing strategies that will help you study smarter, no harder.

For example, here are some tips from the Edge Foundation’s ADHD and College Success guide:

  • To keep boredom at bay, highlight the text you read with different colors or doodle your notes.
  • Make audio notes or see if your book has an audio version and listen as you commute to school
  • Use mnemonics to create funny ways to remember things
  • Try standing up while you read or read your assignment aloud to yourself using a character voice.
  • Get a study buddy
  • Know which classes will cut you slack so you can put energy into the ones that won’t.
  • Know when you’ve hit the point of diminishing returns. If you’ve worked for 5 hours and know that’s enough to get an A minus on the paper and it will take 5 more hours to get an A, but there’s other work that needs to be done, move on!

There are many resources available to assist you in designing a study strategy that will help you leverage your ADHD strengths and limit the negative impacts of ADHD:

College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ADDitude magazine


ADD Association

Prefer your study tips in video? Try these from an ADHD college studyent.

8 Tips for studying with ADHD

If you find that these aren’t enough, you should consider getting an ADHD coach. Many coaches have ADHD themselves, or love someone who does, or both, so they really get it. They know what works, and what doesn’t. And they won’t try to make you fit into an organizational system that isn’t right for you.


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