Ways to Support Teens With ADHD as They Go to College

For teens, going to college marks a big step toward independence, which is exciting, scary, and nerve-wracking, all at the same time. College is full of new opportunities, distractions and pressures, which can be especially challenging for teens with ADHD. There are ways that parents can respect their teens’ independence while providing encouragement and support as they transition into college. Here are some tips to help your teens with ADHD develop important skills in college:

Organization and Time Management

One of the main issues students with ADHD may struggle with is independently managing their time. Encourage your teen to create set work periods throughout their week so that they have dedicated study time. When they first get their new class syllabus, use a calendaring tool to input all assignments and upcoming tests.  Try a variety of tools to see which one is most effective such as a google calendar, a physical day planner, or a productivity app. It is also helpful to have a running to do list on a sticky app on the computer desktop as a constant visual reminder.

Balance Course Load

College classes are usually harder than high school classes since the learning is fast-paced, and the expectations for self-teaching are much higher. New college students should be careful to balance their course load so that they’re not taking all heavy classes.  Balance out courses that require tests and exams vs. papers and projects. Also investigate the support services available on campus, such as tutoring, peer editing, TA and office hours so that they can be accessed when needed.


It can sometimes be difficult for teens with ADHD to meet new friends because they may have trouble reading social cues or connecting with others, especially in social situations that feel uncomfortable. One of the best ways to meet other people is to find those that share similar interests. Attend your school club fair to join in on the fun!

Use ADHD Medication as Prescribed

It’s important for new college students to continue to take any ADHD medication that may have been prescribed by their doctor. Skipping doses and misusing the medication can be dangerous and have adverse side effects. Your teen should talk to a doctor as soon as possible if their current prescription doesn’t seem effective.

Avoid Alcohol and Marijuana

Alcohol and marijuana are widespread on many college campuses. While excessive drinking isn’t healthy for anyone, research shows that students who have ADHD and consume alcohol and/or marijuana experience more negative effects than students who do not have ADHD. Educate your student on the effects and outcomes so that they can make informed decisions.

Open Lines of Communication

Some teens may not admit that they’re struggling until they feel completely overwhelmed. Use language that helps them know that you understand that there are ups and downs throughout the day or week, and that you are there to listen.  Try not to jump in and fix situations, but rather listen to their experiences. If you are going to offer advice, first ask if they would like to hear some advice. If they say no, then respect that they are figuring things out on their own.

For more support related helping your teen with ADHD through college, email info@calchildpsych.com.

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