An international student's guide to ADHD

Constant assignments, the business of university life and the challenge of living independently all make university a challenge for students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, there are a number of techniques you can use to make the most of university life without giving in to your learning difficulty.

Find an ADHD-friendly college

It’s important to check out your chosen school’s disability services and allowance, but there are other aspects you should consider too. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kind of setting do you work best in?
  • What support structure do you need?
  • How do you study?

For example, some people with ADHD find it difficult to sleep at night. Find out if your chosen college can offer you a private room instead of a shared dorm and ask for a quiet hallway. If you know you need plenty of one on one attention, look for programs with low student/teacher ratios.

Get organised

Students with ADHD should follow some basic steps to keep themselves organised and on time at university. A daily routine and rituals are the best way to get to grips with your new student life. Some good tips for getting organised with ADHD include:

  • Use white noise machines to block out distractions
  • Use a daily planner to map out what you need to achieve
  • Use electronic devices to set alarms and reminders for these tasks
  • Establish a regular place and time to study
  • Divide large projects into smaller ones with individual deadlines

Make friends

Having ADHD can make you feel down and depressed, particularly when it comes to making new friends. Don’t get caught up on the things that make you different from your fellow students and try not to be too harsh on yourself.

Students with ADHD can utilise their friend-network in a variety of ways, if they are willing to do so. Some of the ways friends can help would be:

  • Taking notes in a class you share
  • Creating study groups that split up the work load
  • Providing constructive feedback on improving quality of school work
  • Being a source of positive support

You can contribute by also sharing your skills and be a supportive friend by encouraging study group members to have fun, be the source of creative ideas, generating many options to problem solving, and seeing things with an open mind.

Stay healthy

Being away from home can be a cue to eat unhealthily, stay up to late and sleep in. It’s also a recipe for disaster for ADHD sufferers, for whom a little worry can escalate into full blown anxiety. It’s therefore important to avoid rising your stress levels – and healthy eating and a good night sleep are excellent ways to do this.

One way to lower stress levels is to learn simple relaxation exercises, such as breathing techniques or meditation. Tell your worries to a supportive friend or family member and learn to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. Don’t think about what you can’t do or feel you are bad at –instead focus on the things you can do.

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