Strategies for Surviving the First Year of College with ADHD

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Research indicates that college students with ADHD have a greater chance of failing and having to retake classes, getting lower grade point averages, and leaving college without graduating than students without ADHD. This can come as a surprise to some parents. Often these same kids have done well in high school, and scored well on standardized tests. But college life, especially when it is away from home, can be a difficult transition.

Bonnie Mincu, an ADHD coach, writing in her blog Thrive with ADHD, identifies 4 primary reasons for the problems ADHD students have – especially in their freshman year:

  • Disorganization
  • Denial
  • Distraction
  • Derailment

Denial can be a big part of the problem. An article in Education Week indicated that 69 percent of students with ADHD and other learning disabilities “no longer consider themselves disabled once they reach college.” This change in perspective results in low use of accommodations and support. This

Micah Goldfus surveyed student coordinators at a number of colleges and universities around the country to get their recommendations for ADHD students who are struggling in college:

  • Own your ADHD – don’t deny it or think you are going to leave it behind. Embrace your difference and make the most of it.
  • Use disability services and accommodations – Take advantage of the resources that are available to help. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to contact the disability office and ask for more accommodations if you need them. Don’t be afraid to ask your professors for help as well.
  • Understand how you learn best – It is worth taking the time to discover your particular learning style and what works best for you rather than trying to copy what everyone else does.
  • Connect with the wider LD / ADHD community – Many students (perhaps as many as one in five) is an LD / ADHD student. Seek them out and share – either in person or through online forums. You will realize you are not along and could some valuable advice from those who have been going through the same struggles.
  • Understand the policies of your school – Every school is somewhat different with respect to support, accommodations, and policies around LD and ADHD students. Be sure you understand the rules for your school to get the help you need.
  • Explore – College gives you the opportunity to break out of your academic comfort zone. You can try out new subjects and explore topics because they’re interesting to you (not because they’re easy or they’re what you’ve always been good at).

It can also be a good idea to engage an ADHD coach during the freshman year of college. This can help you stay focused and avoid the “4 D’s” that Bonnie Mincu identified.

Whatever your strategy, be prepared for the challenges that transitioning to college brings. Succeeding with that transition can make the transition to career easier.

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Is your Student Lacking Emotional Intelligence?

edge_logo5-2Is your Student Lacking Emotional Intelligence?

Is your Student Lacking Emotional Intelligence?

You’ve witnessed the scenario, the semester starts off smoothly and the student is doing pretty well. The assignments are not too difficult and the academic year is flowing with relative ease. As the semester continues, usually shortly before mid-terms, turbulence takes over. The student suddenly becomes overwhelmed and overloaded, assignment due dates are rapidly approaching and time is running out. The student is not properly prepared and encounters difficulty finding the help needed to succeed. This may describe your ADHD student, but it can also define someone low in emotional intelligence. Those with ADHD may likely be low in emotional intelligence skills as well.


When dealing with ADHD, we tend to focus on proficiencies related to time management, procrastination, organization, and memory. These skills are important, but we do not spend as much time discussing critical areas that relate to persistence, self-advocacy, flexibility, emotional control and stress management. These areas of personal development, called emotional intelligence, can be learned to help avoid academic disruption. Self-advocacy can help a student to politely and confidently say no to excessive campus activities; emotional control can help one properly confront a problem roommate; persistence can help a student to bounce back from a bad grade on a test to try again with new determination.


Daniel Goldman, the father of emotional intelligence, states that life success involves only 20% intellect and 80% the ability to connect and build strong relationships with others. Those that are skilled at building strong relationships possess emotional control, self-advocacy, stress management, persistence and other such skills.  Emotional intelligence is defined as using emotions well to guide thinking and behavior. Studies show students with high emotional intelligence do better academically. High emotional intelligence also improves a person’s social interactions and helps one develop friendships and lasting relationships.

Low emotional intelligence stifles healthy social interactions. Low self-awareness and low self-confidence disrupts positive relationship building. The student may lack a healthy network of friendships and relationships with others, which can be crucial in social problem solving and motivation while in college. A student with low emotional intelligence is not comfortable approaching a teacher for clarity on an assignment or feel weird going to the disabilities office and asking for the necessary accommodations needed for academic success. This is because they have not built the relationships and comfort with those persons that would make interacting with them relatively easy. In some instances, the student is not even aware that an intervention is needed. Too often, instructors assume that the student is unwilling to try or not interested in learning.


Believe it or not, for some people, emotional intelligence comes naturally. This means that it is easier for them to create the bonds and obtain the information they need to achieve their goals. These are the people that can connect with everyone in the room. They may have been the class clown or the teacher’s pet in school. They were probably a part of the popular crowd. The good news is, emotional intelligence is a skill that can be practiced and developed.  Research suggests that by making a person aware of the skills that they are lacking and practicing the proper responses, one can develop the skills needed to improve their emotional intelligence. For a student, this can mean better friendships, better relationships with professors or improved interactions. For students with ADHD, developing emotional intelligence can ese the mid-semester rush and equip students with the tools needed to finish the semester as smoothly as they began.


Steven McDaniels is an Edge Foundation coach. He serves as the Director of Fitness and Athletics at Beacon College, where he previously served as the Director of Life Coaching.


Advice every parent of a new college student with ADHD needs to know

There is a big shift in the relationship between parents and children when a child head off to college.  There are new worries for parents students who have ADHD when they live away at home and aren’t able to comfort their child in person. Even when your child is at home attending community college, she’ll need your support in moving into young adult level of self management.

We asked our coaches for advice to share with parents of new college students. Here are 6 ideas every parent of a new college student with ADHD should know.

  1. Maturity Levels: Teenagers and young adults have a chronological age, an intellectual age, and a social maturity age. These three are rarely the same.  With ADHD teens, often their intellectual age is years ahead of their chronological age, with the social maturity age three to five years, or more, behind the chronological age. It takes longer for these delightful and creative folks to reach a balanced level of social maturity. Remember the greatest gifts you can give your teen are unconditional love, understanding and patience.
  2. Staying Healthy: Support your child in establishing healthy habits away from home. For example, you may want to let her know that you would prefer she get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, even it means less study time. Or you would rather she exercise every day than get straight A’s.  Ask her what might get in the way of sleep or exercise, and come up with some strategies to protect those part of her life.  Sleep and exercise will do more than anything else can to keep your daughter (or son) happy, healthy and wise.
  3. Communicate: Set up guidelines for regular check-ins by text, phone, Skype or Facetime. Be clear about the kinds of things you want to hear about in advance (e.g., how classes are going, grades, new friends, roommates, sleep, eating, etc.). And be prepared to share news about things the college student wants to know (how the family cat is doing, what’s happening back at home, etc.). If college students are forthcoming about the things that parents want to know, it builds a relationship of trust, keeps the college student accountable to parents (and vice versa), and everyone can relax a lot more!
  4. Crisis Counseling: When your child calls you with a minor crisis, start by asking her what she thinks she should do.  Let her find her own way. Remind yourself that when she calls expressing sadness, worry, loneliness & homesickness, it is often cured by the first friend who knocks on the door. This is the time for your student to make their own choices and figure out how to bounce back from their own mistakes. Remember, parents are often still worried long after the child has gotten over it.
  5. Success Measures:  College success should not be assessed solely by an academic grade. Is your young adult developing self advocacy skills? Self awareness? Initiative? Connections? Look at everything she is learning, not just the grades she produces.
  6. Student Services: Encourage student to connect with student services and take advantage of all of their services!  They may need assistance in figuring out how to supply the proof they qualify for services. Guide them, but don’t do it for them.
  7. Prepare for grieving. Your child’s initial departure may be surprisingly harder for you than you thought it would be. Your emotions may feel similar to when he marched off with her class on first day of kindergarten.  The first couple of weeks can be a big adjustment for you.  Make sure you have others parents who are in the same boat to commiserate with over beverage or a meal.

>>Parents:  Do you have any advice you’d give to other parents of new college students?  We’d love to hear what has been helpful to you.

ADHD Study Tips Staying on top: Final Exam Study Tips for ADHD students


Are you gearing up for finals?  Can’t wait for it all to be over?  Does this sound like you?  “I know I shouldn’t wait until the last minute and pull an all-nighter.  My work isn’t the best it could be, but it’s the only way I can get motivated.”

Getting back on track:

You can still get yourself back on track, even with a few days left.  And here’s how.

Assess your time:

  • Make a calendar.  Get some paper, open up a spread sheet, or set up a Google calendar.
  • Sketch out a calendar for the upcoming days remaining in the school year. Block out both the days and leave space for the hours of the day.  Here’s a weekly planner to give you an idea of what it might look like. (You can also download and print it.)
  • Block out on your calendar plan all your classes and other critical time commitments (ex. job, sports — things you MUST do).
  • Block out when you’ll be sleeping and eating.
  • On the second page, list all the other things you have to get done.


  • Circle the items that have big consequences for not getting them done.
  • Everything else is lower priority right now. You can even let them fall off the list for now.

Break your project into smaller bits:

  • Identify all the steps you need to do to get a big project done.  For a paper, for instance, you need time to do research, brainstorm and/or write a draft, write the final draft, and hand it in.
  • Block of time on your calendar for each of those steps.
  • If it looks like you have extra hours left on your calendar plan, look to the next higher priority tasks and start scheduling them until you run out of hours in the day.
  • Don’t forget to schedule some short breaks along the way.

Stick to your plan!

  • Keep the plan with you 24/7. Put it in your agenda, or your phone.
  • Keep checking your plan.  Stick to it to the best of your ability. If it’s 1:00 pm and your plan says you should be done with lunch and working on the draft, go work on the draft.
  • Remember, it is an emergency plan to get you through a tough spot. One way or another, it will be over soon.

How an ADHD Coach can help

  • If you find yourself in a last minute study crunch so much of the time it feels like a habit, and ADHD coach can help you avoid emergency situations in the first place.
  • One of the characteristics of ADHD is a tendency to shoot from the hip, or the “ready, fire, aim” syndrome. A coach works with you over time to develop better planning and self-management skills; skills that will help you manage your time and your things so you’re on top of your work and the rest of your life and not overwhelmed and behind all the time.
  • Once you’ve met your deadline, get yourself a coach. By working with a coach, you can stay on top of your work and have fun too!

Get to know the Edge Foundation

Founder’s Story

Founder's Story

ADHD Hits Home

When my two children were diagnosed in their mid teens with ADHD, I asked the doctor what caused it. He said it was hereditary. For me, that was like a punch to the gut. I knew right then and there that my kids had inherited their ADHD from me. And I knew that I must have it too.

How did I know? I knew because I had seen them struggle, and their struggles were quite familiar. I had confronted many of the same challenges they were then facing. ADHD presents unique hurdles to the people who have it. For my children it meant constant problems in school and poor grades. It meant difficulties in time-management problems, lack of focus, and impulsivity, along with a host of other issues.

Worst of all, it meant low self-esteem. All the years of unwelcome report cards, conflicts at school, and excessive effort to do what other kids did so easily chipped away steadily at my kids. Seeing my children’s spirits slowly deflate over the years was one of the most painful things I have experienced.

I blamed myself. My children had inherited ADHD from me and, worst of all, I had let them down by failing to identify the problem sooner, when we all could have benefited so much from knowing and understanding the cause of our troubles.


Finding Our Edge

In the years since their diagnosis, my children and I have found many ways of coping with our particular challenges. Because of our persistence and creativity, we have managed well. We have all succeeded in different ways none of us could have imagined back then. Now, at a time when others my age retire, after serving as the Seattle, Oakland, and Los Angeles METRO transportation leader and after founding and recently selling Flexcar, the award winning car-sharing company, I am embarking on a new career, as founder of the Edge Foundation. It has been a long journey to this moment, one that, in retrospect, seems inevitably driven by three compelling moments.


First Compelling Moment

My two children, Guy and Kelsey, had both been tested extensively in high school at the recommendation of a teacher. That is how I discovered their ADHD. But during Kelsey’s senior year of high school, her chosen college required that she be tested again for her condition in order to be considered for special learning accommodations. The tests were administered one day a week for three weeks.

On the last day when I went to pick up Kelsey from her testing, the psychologist drew a bell curve on a chalkboard. The bell curve, he explained, represented the IQs of all 18 year olds in the United States, with the expanded center representing the largest numbers, which were of average intelligence. He asked Kelsey where she thought she fell along the curve. Obviously uncomfortable, she finally pointed to the left side and said, “About in the middle, a little below average.” She was wrong. The psychologist set us both straight. Although my daughter fell into the 20th percentile for reading, spelling, and math, her overall IQ was way above the 90th percentile.

I’ll never forget what happened next. We left the doctor’s office and Kelsey looked at me, gave me a high five, and said, “Dad, I’m brilliant.” No words had ever meant so much to me, and nothing was truer. I wished that every parent of kids with ADHD could hear such joy and self-confidence in their children’s voices.


Second Compelling Moment

In my family, one of our strategies for coping with ADHD has been to work with personal coaches. This is a method I had become familiar with through decades in the corporate world, where employing a personal coach is common. I decided to hire personal coaches for myself and my kids as a way to help us all stay focused, reflect on our successes and failures, and monitor our progress on academic, personal, and professional goals.

During one of Kelsey’s calls home from college, I came to understand what effect that strategy had had. She said, “Dad, of all the things you have done for me, the most valuable and most appreciated is the gift you gave me of a coach.” I was taken aback because she had not initially seemed to understand the coaching relationship and how it might benefit her. But now here she was telling me it was the best thing I had ever done for her. I thought back on the spell-checking, voice-recognition, and verbal dictation software, the specially colored notebooks and specially designed wristwatches, the medications, and complicated diets and sleep regimens, all the methods I had tried to help them deal with ADHD. Out of all the strategies, my daughter had chosen to single out coaching as the most significant to her.


Third Compelling Moment

Right after I sold my company following a successful corporate career, Kelsey asked me what I was going to do next with my life. I was still swimming with thoughts about the success of my sale and hadn’t even given it a thought. But my daughter had. She said, “Dad, I know what you ought to do. You ought to do for other kids what you did for me and Guy.”

I couldn’t speak I was so overcome. Kelsey had seen my future. It was so simple, so powerful. I decided right then to start the Foundation to help young people with ADHD realize their potential and their passion. And I decided that the Foundation strategy would be centered around providing each young person with a professional coach. Simply put, if a coach is good enough for the CEOs in this country, it is good enough for the young people who are struggling with ADHD.


Coaching and ADHD

Coaching is not the only intervention for ADHD. It shouldn’t be. ADHD requires a comprehensive effort on many fronts. Coaching uniquely contributes directly not only to improved academic performance but also to enhanced social functioning and increased self-esteem. As such it is an important if not critical tool in an array of intervention strategies.

This is why it was so important to my daughter later in her academic career. She understood then that her life is going to be about significantly more than school and how well she can do on a test. Our children are so much more than their school selves. Personal coaching, when delivered by professionals trained to work with ADHD, takes into account the entire individual and helps him or her develop fully on all fronts—academic, social, professional—with increased sense of purpose, happiness, and self-esteem. It is my goal that the Edge Foundation will be able to help you or your child and provide your family with a crucial edge in your struggles with the challenges of ADHD.


Best Wishes,

Neil Peterson

Important information everyone who takes an ADHD medicine needs to know

Edge Foundation Blog > Archive for the ‘Stories from the Edge’ Category

Important information everyone who takes an ADHD medicine needs to know

Seattle Seahawk’s starting cornerbacks, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browne busted for misusing Adderall.You may have noticed the increasing frequency of athlete’s being busted for misusing Adderall. An earlier  scandal came when Seattle Seahawk’s starting cornerbacks, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, face four-game suspensions for reportedly testing positive for a substance identified in multiple reports as Adderall.

Seems like a good time to pull out some important facts that everyone who takes an ADHD medicine needs to know:

Key Facts:

  • 34 percent of students polled admitted to taking stimulant medications without a prescription; in juniors and seniors, the percentage can be as high as 80 percent.
  • Possessing stimulant medications without a prescription is essentially the same as possessing any other controlled substance – illegal!
  • A gift is a sale.  In the eyes of the law, giving a controlled substance to someone who does not have the legal or medical authority to possess it is the same as selling it.
  • Students who face challenges based upon the symptoms of their ADHD do not take medications to gain an advantage, but do so in order to have the ability to function in a school setting.
  • Follow your medication plan.  Changing your plan without consulting your doctor can have medical consequences and can create a surplus of pills that can lead to trouble. If you don’t feel that you need to take your meds on the schedule prescribed, tell your doctor and modify the plan with his or her guidance.

Keep your pills safe:

  • When you live in a dorm, keep your pills locked up
  • If you live in an apartment, lock up your pills when you have a party

If your friends ask you to give them some of your pills,

you can say:

  • “I’m so sorry I only have a few left and I need them”
  • “Oh I just ran out! I’m waiting to get my refill in the mail”

What do you do to keep your medication from being misused?  Have you found this to be a big concern?  Sound off in the comment section below.