ADHD in Young Adults: Avoiding Symptom Collisions in College, First Jobs & Beyond

ADHD in Young Adults: Avoiding Symptom Collisions in College, First Jobs and Beyond

Developmental Milestones in Young Adulthood

Leaving home for college. Organizing a gap year. Applying and interviewing for a first job. Adulting. Young adulthood is one big life event after another, each one needing the following developmental skills and each one impacted by ADHD symptoms like executive dysfunction:

  • Advocating for oneself. College students with ADHD must communicate their needs (a quiet testing area, a class notetaker, etc.) to sometimes reluctant professors. New employees must be able to request performance-enhancing modifications, like frequent progress check-ins or telecommuting options.
  • Juggling academics, work, and social obligations. This is hard for many young adults, who are tempted to hang out with friends rather than study or get to bed early.
  • Taking responsibility for your physical and mental health. Young adults must develop a consistent daily medication routine, exercise regularly, practice self-care, and eat healthy meals and snacks. This requires self-discipline.
  • Making thoughtful decisions. Which college to attend, which career to pursue, and how to nurture (or end) relationships — answering all of these important questions requires listing, considering, and measuring alternatives in a meaningful way.

Young Adults with ADHD: Strategies

  • Using a student note taker
  • Getting a copy of the professor’s notes ahead of class, so they can be reviewed in advance
  • Getting help to identify content, professors, and assignment types that are a good fit for a student
  • Breaking testing into shorter sections
  • Recording lectures to listen to while studying.

It is the norm for college students with ADHD to have academic, organizational, and social challenges. Heavy course loads, a new independence, and a more complex social scene all bring their problems. Many young adults don’t realize how much they have relied on external supports through the years. To build independence, try these strategies:

1. Find the best college fit for your student. This doesn’t mean pursuing the highest-ranked or most prestigious schools. It means researching course offerings, requirements, and available waivers. It also means contacting the disabilities office and discussing accommodations such as:

  • Using a student note taker
  • Getting a copy of the professor’s notes ahead of class, so they can be reviewed in advance
  • Getting help to identify content, professors, and assignment types that are a good fit for a student
  • Breaking testing into shorter sections
  • Recording lectures to listen to while studying.
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