You’re working toward your future goals, and you’re struggling, worried about how to increase your premed GPA with ADHD. It can be easy to be down on yourself, or to worry about how you will improve your GPA with what seems like a stacked deck. Don’t despair. There are several fairly simple steps and measures you can take to improve your GPA. You can even do this without upending your entire schedule.
As with any neurodivergent condition, ADHD can range from mild to severe, and affects people differently. Some people can function extremely well with no medication, while others choose to live their best lives through the use of medical technology.
However you are choosing to live with your ADHD is up to you. There is no tip or strategy here for how to deal with your life because it is just that: your life. To tell you otherwise would be condescending and presumptuous. All we’ll say on this matter is that we do encourage you to consult with a professional who has expertise with ADHD and discuss with that person how you want to go about managing your ADHD so that you can achieve the goals and outcomes that you want.
Some people find it impossible to focus without medication while others don’t like the barriers that medication put up in their life, or how it changes their personality. No judgment, but managing ADHD properly, as with any neurological or medical condition, requires a multi-factored analysis.
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ADHD affects people differently, and because it affects people differently, you might require different coping strategies to keep yourself on track in your studies.
For instance, some people with ADHD find it difficult to focus because they act impulsively and following those impulses can cause them to be jittery or restless. Others have a kind of hyper-focus on detail, concentrate on minutiae, and find it easy to get sucked down a “rabbit hole.” For example, they may start research on the nervous system but disappear into a maze of hyperlinks and wind up learning about how male seahorses carry the eggs – because the person bounced from “nervous system” to “brain” to “hippocampus” to “seahorse.” Some have difficulties with ADHD manifesting in a blend of those two ways – or other ways.
So, how does your ADHD affect you? If you can articulate how you often behave and respond to your condition, you can take steps to counteract unproductive behaviors and greatly improve your studying habits as a result. To boost your GPA means to improve your grades, which can only be achieved by adopting strategies that help you learn better. Studying is much like training for a sport: you must first learn the techniques, and as you practice them, they become easier to perform, more automatic, and more effective.
Before we get into study habits, though, let’s talk about environment.
Every day you’ll be using some kind of office, study, or area in your domicile where you will be attending to studying or other academic work. Let’s call this your “workstation.” Make sure that your workstation is ideally set up to assist you in your work. Obviously, you will need a desk and chair, but ensure that both are comfortable heights to work at. Try to keep your workstation clear and uncluttered but do make sure that everything you need is close at hand.
Here are some questions designed to help you craft the perfect workstation for your style:
- Is your workstation close to a power outlet?
- Does it get enough light? If not, can you augment its light with a lamp?
- Does your workstation have enough room for pens, pencils, erasers, highlighters, and any other writing equipment you might want?
- Can you set up your computer, a notebook, and at least one textbook at the same time?
- Is your workstation close to a high-traffic area in your home, or does it have privacy? Do you need privacy to study? We recommend that you choose a room with no noise pollution, low or no traffic, and that might even have a lock on the door. However, you don’t need to be isolated, either.
- Are there drawers, shelves, cabinets, or similar places nearby in which you can store things like textbooks and notebooks while you are not studying?
- Do you have access to the internet at your workstation?
- Do you like spending time in your studying area?
Think about this last question for a moment. It might seem to some people like a workstation is for working, and it doesn’t necessarily require that you enjoy it. But if you don’t enjoy your workstation, you might resent it, resent the work done there, start to dread working there, and come up with excuses to stop working there, or never start working there in the first place. Make the workstation your own space. Ideally, this will be a place where you want to be, not one where you are obligated to be. That will free up your mental bandwidth to focus on any tasks you need to accomplish.
Now that your workstation is set up for efficiency and productivity, you can start to establish a routine that will help you lock in on studying.
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Set yourself up with a daily routine and with a study routine. Routines will help keep you on-schedule and on track with what you need to be doing. We will suggest a possible routine – a sample routine – for your edification and indicate why we have included certain elements where we have. Then, once we’ve gone over our example, we can take a look at how you can go about creating your own routine.
Your routine will help keep you focused. Our sample schedule puts only a few small, essential daily items before tasks like studying. If you program too many small items before your larger responsibilities, you might get trapped in only ever taking care of small problems and tasks and never tending to the bigger picture.
Again, while setting up your schedule, make it make sense for you. Certain items are immobile, like classes or work schedules, so you’ll have to work your personal items – including study time – around those other slots. Just make sure that you stick to your schedule. Remind yourself that these times are concrete and cannot be moved on a whim. That way, you hold yourself accountable for maintaining prime study habits.
When you are studying, you may still fall prey to distraction. Here are some good study habits to get into:
- Disconnect from social media. Don’t log in to any social media accounts, and in fact, turn them off – close all tabs, silence notifications on your phone, and so forth – while you are studying.
- Shut down or remove your cell phone. Cell phones are huge distractions for most people. You shouldn’t have yours nearby while you study. Your textbooks, notebooks, and computer will work just fine. If you are using your cell phone in place of a computer – for fact-checking or online resources – make sure you put the phone into a mode that silences most notifications, so you won’t be distracted by things like incoming text messages. Never respond to text messages during studying hours.
- If possible, disconnect from the internet. While the use of online resources might be beneficial or even necessary in some circumstances, the internet on the whole can be very distracting. Avoid such a distraction by shutting it down completely. If you must go online, before you open a browser, try writing down exactly what you are going to look up; avoid “rabbit holes.”
- Only eat snacks you have set aside at your workstation for studying. If you are constantly getting up for food and drinks, you cut into your time.
- Set specific goals. These goals should be long term, short term, and daily, and should complement each other. For example, if your long-term goal is to prepare for a calculous exam, have a medium-term goal to cover all the chapters in your calculous textbook and a short-term goal, for example, to read two chapters a week. Then, set daily goals that evenly divide up those sections. By setting reasonable, incremental goals, your tasks will always seem doable and won’t overwhelm you. If you feel overwhelmed, you might abandon studying in the face of what you perceive as an impossible task, but if you establish a plan and stick to it, you don’t need to stress over the future but just focus on what you need to do each day.
- Use a checklist to mark off what you have accomplished during each studying session. You can even make this fun by scheduling a reward once you’ve accomplished a specific goal. For example, you might have a favorite show or activity you enjoy; schedule it for when you complete a specific series of tasks so that you have something to look forward to. While engaging in your reward, disconnect completely from academics and rest your mind.
- Engage with the material in multiple ways. If you are reading solid text, you might become bored and easily distracted. Try reading, highlighting, and writing notes in your notebooks or in a word processor on your computer. Find some online or multimedia resources to engage with your study topics in a variety of ways, such as video or audio books. This will keep your brain sharp and will not only help with focus, but also with memory.
- Go over the same material multiple times. Don’t just read everything once. Make sure you know the material by repeating essential facts and by giving yourself little tests or quizzes.
- Move around. If your brain feels like it’s locking up or getting too distracted, take one of your 5–10-minute study breaks. Get up, move around, and do something physical. This could be jumping jacks, dancing, going for a three-minute jog, or just walking around your apartment for a few minutes. Often, we become fatigued and stodgy when sitting and staring at words for a long time. Give yourself the boost of a physically empowered mind.
- Whenever you notice yourself getting distracted, use your calendars, day planners, and goal sheets to remind yourself of where you need to be by day’s end.
- Make use of technology. Turn your phone into an asset instead of a distraction by downloading an app dedicated to developing good study habits and keeping you on track.
Where does your help come from? A great thing to do is to ensure you have an excellent social support network firmly in place. Life is tough, specifically if you are working with a diagnosis of ADHD, and one of the first lines of defense against the hardships that come in life is a social support network.
Family members can be a great social support network, as people you grew up with are likely to already be familiar with your journey of understanding regarding your mental health, but family are not always available to you – especially at school. Some students may not have good relationships with their family, or they may be too far away to visit or call.
This is when it is important to expand your network to friendships, including classmates, or even professors you are on good terms with. You can supplement friends with online communities, but be aware that an online community, no matter how strong, will never be a complete substitute for a close circle of friends.
You can expand your social support network by making sure that people you might need to rely on for assistance fully understand what you’re going through and how you want to handle it. Make sure that they know what you need from them. Most people are happy to help, but they need to know how best to be helpful to you.
One way you can use a social support network specifically while studying is to give yourself an accountability partner. Ask a close friend to hold you accountable for your studying. If this person is a roommate, they might even be able to directly help you with studying. They might be able to join you for a session, or at least put your feet to the fire if they notice that you are allowing yourself to be distracted during a session. If you are going to seek an accountability partner, make sure that you ask very politely, and try in advance to think of somebody whose schedule matches or complements your own.
One of your best resources will be professionals. You might have a therapist, a psychiatrist, or some other sort of counsellor. While friends and family can be useful, they can only take you so far. You might need the help of someone who has dedicated their professional life to helping other people, has experience working with neurodivergent persons, and has training and competency specifically in your area of ADHD.
It might seem strange to be relying on a professional for assistance. In fact, some people dislike the very idea of seeing a physician or counsellor for their condition – choosing to see their ADHD as something natural and as a part of them. That’s fair, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed of your neurodivergence. However, if you are having difficulty balancing your personal life or your academic life while dealing with ADHD, ask a professional for assistance, and they will be happy to provide you with what means are necessary to keep yourself focused. They can help you talk through your experiences, work out how best to respond, or provide you with a medication that is right for you – one that will manage your ADHD without nasty side effects.
Most schools have programs set up specifically to help students facing certain barriers, such as neurodivergence. Speaking with professors and staff at your institution will inform you of which programs you could apply to or avail yourself of.
Don’t be afraid to ask about having increased time to complete exams, or other forms of accommodation. In fact, in most cases, this is your right, and it is likely that you will be switched on to resources and programs that you can use to boost your GPA.
Remember that you can give yourself an extra edge with your GPA through course selection. Choose courses that you are passionate about and that will inspire you to study. Alternatively, choose subjects about which you already know a great deal. You might pick a music elective, for instance, if you are already a musician. Or you might take medically oriented courses that deal with psychology, or social sciences courses that concern neurodivergence. Your existing knowledge base in those areas will mean a higher GPA. Remember, you can also choose to highlight some of these experiences in your , or .
In other words: a successful strategy to boost your GPA might be to select courses that you will naturally do better in. With that said, perfecting routines and study habits and strengthening your academic and personal support networks is always be a good idea – for the specific goal of increasing your GPA as well as for your future success in medical school.
An aggregate of information reveals that if you want to increase your GPA with ADHD, a balanced lifestyle including self-care, a small amount of organizational work, and a shift in focus – rather than number of hours – in your study habits should yield excellent results. If you give yourself the advantages that come with our tips and advice, you are far more likely to reap a higher GPA.
1. What are some good resources for an ADHD student?
Your family doctor is going to be a good person to go to, if possible. If you’re attending school outside your home state or province, that might be difficult; however, ideally, you can ask your doctor for a referral before you leave home.
Know that most educational institutions will usually have such resources available to you as well.
2. Don’t most of these tips apply to anybody?
Yes. Any student would benefit from routines, good workstations, social support networks, and careful planning.
3. What about these tips is specific to a person with ADHD?
We have mentioned medical professionals, direct health care intervention, communication with professors and other members of your social and academic spheres, as well as other tips and strategies specific to persons with ADHD.
4. What is the most important thing to remember about studying with ADHD?
The most important advice we have given is to tailor everything to your own, personal experience. Most decisions concerning how to cope with your ADHD will be related to how it manifests for you and finding strategies that work for you.
5. What if I use all the techniques and tips and I still can’t focus?
Your best bet is to use an app or an accountability partner who can call you back to your workstation or refocus your attention on your tasks. If you are still distracted, try changing the parameters of your study sessions. Make them shorter and more frequent instead of setting aside long chunks, for instance. Or maybe try studying at a different time of day. Experiment to get the formula right.
6. How long should I try my study rules before deciding they don’t work?
It might be easy to write off a routine as not working right away, but don’t be too hasty. Give each routine a try for at least a week or two to see if it gels with you. If it still isn’t working, mix it up, but expect some degree of frustration in the beginning. Keep in mind that when you start any new practice, even if you don’t have ADHD, it takes time for your mind and body to adjust. Give yourself that time to discover which techniques and habits fit you best.
7. I don’t want to let anybody know about my condition. How do I build a social safety network?
Well, we recommend that you be honest with your close friends to form even closer bonds. However, if letting people know really isn’t something you want to do, don’t explain about your diagnosis; just say you have trouble studying and ask for help. The best part about being close with friends or family is that they aren’t there just for your ADHD; they’re there for all of you.
8. How do I know if I have ADHD?
By consulting with a professional. Don’t just self-diagnose. Get a professional opinion. While you can look up symptoms online, you shouldn’t make any assumptions. Remember that ADHD often manifests differently in male and female persons.