Helping ADHD College Students make better Grades


Helping ADHD College Students make better Grades

This article should probably be titled How to help your college student with ADHD survive and make better grades. But…that title is way too long.

By now, probably all students who are going back to college are back “in the grind.”  And if your ADHD teenager is one of those, you’re probably already worried about how he or she will cope with a new school, deal with returning to the same school or how you can help so they will study harder and make better grades.

There is hope…there really are ways you can help your ADHD college student survive his or her first year and each subsequent year of academic life.  With that ray of sunshine in mind, please let me share a few of the more than 50 tips on dealing with ADHD in college that I’ve collected from parents of college students and from students with ADHD themselves over the past few years. Here goes….

  • Do not keep your child’s ADHD diagnosis a secret from everyone at college. A mom told me several years ago that she and her husband thought it best to protect their son from ADHD bias by making him keep his ADHD a secret. No one knew about Jason’s ADHD in his freshman year. So, since he had no one to turn to when things went bad, he failed almost all of his subjects.

    What Jason’s mom advised was to tell all professors, all tutors, the school nurse, advisors and school administration that dealt with special needs students-to tell “Almost” everyone about your child’s ADHD and ask for their help. She also advised each person be asked to keep the diagnosis private in hopes that doing so would help avoid student-student bias and bullying and problems with others wanting to borrow pills. Sounds reasonable-doesn’t it?

  • Help your ADHD student find a mentor-a person they can turn to when they have questions, concerns, need advice, feel frustrated or overwhelmed. Preferably this person needs to be older and have dealt with ADHD on a personal basis or helped others with behavior problems in the past. Life coaches work really well in providing not only emotional and social support, but help keep your ADHD child from being embarrassed from having to call you all the time. No one wants to be tied to the proverbial apron strings all the time. After all, you want them to grow-up and part of growing up is recognizing when you need to ask others for help.
  • Hire a graduate student, an interested teacher, or retired professor to act as a tutor in your son’s or daughter’s most challenging classes/subjects. Just two or three hours a week may make all the difference in the world when it comes to improved studying, better test taking and of course a boost in self-esteem that goes with improved grades.
  • Do not isolate your behavior challenged child. I’ve had several moms and dads tell me about how they moved their ADHD teenager “off-campus” in their second year of college in hopes that their behavior would improve if they lived alone or didn’t have to share a bath or living areas. Later, these same parents returned desperately seeking help, because their ADHD college student had become so isolated living alone or with just one other person, that his or her social skills and study habits had deteriorated to the point they were an emotional wreck, not capable of interacting with others, had lost all friends and were making failing grades.

    It’s important to realize that just like all other levels of learning-whether in the classroom or not-students learn from each other, not just from books and teachers. They learn how to study, pick up little nuances about what is and what is not acceptable behavior, observe social skills that allow for making friends and dating and mature into adulthood as a group.

    By forcing an ADHD child to live off-campus, parents deprive their college student of most of the benefits of college life. It’s almost impossible to replace these experiences later and usually these students will mature at a slower pace than those who integrate well and develop great social and interact skills.

As you can see, parenting the college student with ADHD is an on-going learning experience that involves a lot of trial and error. Just like ADHD kids, college students with ADHD don’t come with an instruction manual. Each child is unique and of course any treatment plan must be individualized to match not only their weaknesses, but their strengths.

Parenting the ADHD college student is often scary, frustrating, time-consuming and heart-breaking, but with a little help from those who have walked the rocky road before you…you can successfully help your college student with ADHD survive college and make better grades.

Frank Barnhill, MD


Here are a couple of article you might want to take a look at….

Heading to college with ADHD brings extra challenges

College Student Abuse of ADHD Drugs Causes ADHD Misdiagnosis

College Students Misuse ADHD Drugs to Improve Grades 

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