Archive of ‘College’ category

4 Tips for Students with ADHD from a Tutor with ADHD

As a therapist who works with both children and adolescents, one of the many topics that my clients struggle with is the impact school has on their mental health. Simply put, school is a significant part of any young person’s life, but when compounded with the stress of learning challenges, such as ADHD, school can be a predominant source of stress. 

For this blog, I had an extensive discussion with a tutor based out of Austin who has worked with students, ages 5 and above, for the past 4 years.  What I found particularly unique about this conversation was that this tutor not only works with students who have ADHD, but she herself was diagnosed with ADHD during her junior year of high school. This shared experience of ADHD between she and her students provides a unique perspective that helps her connect with them on a more emotional level. During our conversation, I was able to glean 4 helpful tips for students with ADHD that are also utilized by this tutor in her own life. 

1. Utilize a check list

A check list is customized with important information for you that can help you get started on schoolwork. Creating a daily checklist before and after school that you go through every morning can help narrow down what specific tasks you should focus on. This can be especially useful if you tend to get overwhelmed easily by everyday tasks and also struggle with time management. 

Example of a Check List:  

  • Did I go to the bathroom? 
  • Do I have water & snacks easily accessible to me?
  • Do I have my notebooks & pencils/ materials I need for studying?
  • Do I have my timer?
  • Did I turn off all my distractions?
  • Did I check my learning platform for any missing/incomplete assignments?
  • Create a practical & reasonable list of assignments to be completed today 

2. Tackle more than one unfinished assignment

There will be times when you will fall behind on assignments because of stress, extra curricular activities, lack of motivation, or poor time management. When this happens, start by taking a deep breath, realize that you are not a “bad” student for falling behind in school, and feel comforted by the fact that you now have a tip to help you tackle unfinished work: Prioritize assignments from most liked subject to the least liked ones. Then within those assignments, order them from easiest to hardest. Start off with the easiest assignment that will take the least amount of time to give yourself “confidence points.” Confidence points not only instill belief and trust in yourself that you will get through these assignments, but it can also decrease the overall amount of stress you have about the unfinished work. 

Then look at the harder assignments and consider who you can ask for help not only on the work itself, but also who can help you break up these assignments into smaller segments. 

Ideas for asking for help: 

  • Set up a meeting with your teacher
  • Ask your parents for tutoring help
  • Text or call a friend 
  • Go to your older sibling

3. Set timers (that are not on your phone or any other tech device) 

Setting timers for yourself can break up tedious school assignments into manageable chunks. When setting a timer, consider how long it takes you to lose focus on a subject. For example, If it takes you 15 minutes to lose focus, then break the assignment up into 15 minute chunks and then take a break. When trying out this tool; however, start off with a break that is half the amount of the set timer (which would be 7 and 1/2 minutes in this case). Keep yourself accountable and honor the timer to avoid mentally exhausting yourself or fixating on one subject. If you remember that you need to do something else unrelated to the assignment when the timer is already set, write it down on a sticky note and save it for your break time to avoid getting side-tracked. 

Examples of Timers that are Not on your Phone: 

  • Microwave 
  • Stove 
  • Manual kitchen timer (check the link below for reference) : Lux Minute Minder Timer Mechanical White with Black Markings 60 Min : Home & Kitchen

4. Incorporate rewards into your break times 

In Tip #3, you learned how to set timers and alternate studying time with breaks. In Tip #4, we want to show you how your breaks can be used as a way to reward yourself for all the hard work you have been putting into your school assignments. These rewards are a simple and fun way to keep you motivated, but without the use of social media, any type of technology, or screen time. Because as we all know, these devices can be incredibly distracting to our learning processes and invite poor studying habits. But we do not want to deprive you of technology completely, so when you have completed a larger academic goal that you have set for yourself (e.g. making an A on a test or no late assignments for 6 weeks) you can incorporate a bigger reward that does include screens or technology. 

Examples of Fun Rewards:  

  • If you are passionate about fitness, do 5 push ups 
  • If you have a sweet tooth, reward yourself with 2 M&Ms 
  • If you need some love, cuddle with your pet  
  • If you love to draw, sketch your favorite TV character 
  • If you need a brain teaser, solve sudoku 

Note from the tutor: 

Sometimes students can feel shame or embarrassment when they are not fitting into societal academic norms, which can then lead to low self-esteem or a negative self-concept, like “I’m the dumbest student” or “I’m never going to learn.” I fell into the trap of believing that I was not a “good” or capable student because many of my teachers’ and professors’ expectations on students overall created unrealistic expectations for myself, especially as a student with learning difficulties. My advice to students is to be honest with yourself and accept that learning may take longer for you and that is okay. Move away from comparing your academic abilities to societal norms, teachers’ expectations, and even other students’ abilities. And instead ask yourself: How can I set myself up to be successful? 

Supporting Your Teen Through Applying to College

The college application process is an exciting time for any family. Your child has decided to further their education, consider different career paths, and begin the first stage of their adult life. You are proud of them and simultaneously anxious about the choices they will make. This is one of the most uniquely stressful times in a teenager’s life, and it can be easy for any parent to feed off of their child’s stress and worry about whether they are making the best decisions for their future. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you help your child navigate this transitory time.

Encourage them to seek joy

I recently had a parent session with the father of one of my clients who is a junior in high school. He shared with me that his son’s school counselor looked at his choice sheet for his senior year classes and asked him, “Where is the joy in your schedule?” This is such a beautiful reminder that teenagers need balance. Even though AP and IB classes look great on college applications, you have an amazing opportunity to demonstrate to your child that it is necessary to prioritize their mental health and focus on things that make them happy. Start a conversation with them about their schedule. Be curious about the subjects they are interested in, and take note of the electives, sports, fine arts, etc. that make them come alive. Ultimately, colleges pursue students who jump off the page. GPAs and test scores can make an application stand out, but admissions officers are not looking for robots. They want to see students who have passions and varied interests. Reinforce that your child is human, and this is the time in their life to try new things and decipher what makes them feel joyful.  

Help them prioritize their overall wellness

There are so many things that demand high schoolers’ time and energy. Your child is likely coming home feeling exhausted from balancing assignments, tests, extra-curricular activities, friendships, studying for the ACT or SAT, and completing college applications. This often involves overextending themselves and putting their wellness beneath the things on their to-do list. It can be hard to balance helping your teen stay on top of their responsibilities with inspiring them to care for themselves. Here are some behaviors to look out for that indicate your teen needs help to put themselves first:

  • Irritability 
  • Trouble sleeping or oversleeping 
  • Appetite changes 
  • Withdrawal
  • Sluggishness 
  • Decreased interest in previously enjoyable activities

Remind your child that they will not be able to perform the way they would like to in their classes or on their standardized tests if they are not regulated, well-rested, well-fed, and well-connected. Most importantly, children learn by example. If they see you prioritizing your wellness, they will follow suit.

Be patient 

There are many moving parts to college applications like login information, resumes, deadlines that vary according to school, recommendation letters, essays, transcripts, and more. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that houses executive functioning, organizational skills, impulse control, and decision making, and it does not fully develop until around age 25. With this in mind, it can be difficult for teenagers to keep track of all the things they need to acquire and submit for their college applications. They will have plenty of questions for you, and they will need your assistance to stay on track. Listen to their concerns, reflect and validate how they feel, and collaborate with them to find solutions to their problems.

Seek professional help

Teens have many things to consider when they apply to college. This process brings up various existential questions like “Who am I?” “What is my passion?” and “What do I want to do with my life?” It is beneficial for teens to have a safe, confidential, and non-judgmental space to address these questions. Meeting with a therapist can empower your child to care for themselves and face this uncertain time confidently. If your child needs support with the logistical aspects of the college application process, here are some referrals for wonderful college counselors in Austin:

Rebecca Putter of Putter Academic and College Experts

Jen Hendricks of Hendricks Education

Kendall Guess of Path to Admissions

Your teen is looking to you for encouragement, support, and guidance through this incredibly turbulent time. Above all else, remember to focus on connecting with them and maintaining a curious disposition as they communicate their interests to you. Trust that they have the skills within them to see this process through and make decisions that align with their values and desires. Additionally, trust that you are capable of pacing them through this time while helping them embrace their autonomy.