Dean College students learning some executive functioning strategies in the Morton Family Learning Center at Dean College

Fact: College is a lot different than high school. 

For most, high school days are filled with fairly flexible deadlines, supportive adults looking out for you and keeping you on track, and a routine daily schedule. But in college, it may seem like you’re on your own. You set your schedule, which can differ daily depending on your class times, are expected to get your work done with little to no oversight, and soon realize those deadline extensions are much harder to come by. 

Often, students with executive functioning issues need a bit of help adjusting to college life, but it can easily be done with right supports in place. Thankfully, there are useful executive functioning strategies for college students that many will discover through self-advocacy. 

What is Executive Functioning?

There are eight main executive functioning skills. These include:

  • Organization
  • Task initiation
  • Impulse control
  • Emotion control
  • Working memory
  • Flexible thinking
  • Self-monitoring
  • Planning and prioritization

Students need to be able to retain as much relevant information as possible, plus control their emotions in order to keep from dwelling on negative happenings. At a glance, it’s very clear why these executive functional skills are so important to college students. Those who possess them have no issues attending classes, studying for tests, and adhering to deadlines. 

Useful Strategies

On the other hand, there are many students who struggle with these critical executive functions. Whether they have ADHD, are on the autism spectrum, or are otherwise non-neurotypical, they need a little extra help when it comes to staying organized and on track. 

Luckily, there are plenty of important executive functioning strategies that these college students can use, including:

  • Creating a Calendar – Whether the student chooses to use a paper planner, a Google calendar, or both, writing down deadlines, course schedules, and other tasks helps them get organized. 
  • Breaking Large Projects into Smaller Ones – Looking at a large project and focusing solely on the end result can lead to overwhelming feelings that can be difficult to manage. Students who have a hard time getting started on these projects usually put them off until the last minute which leads to sense of urgency and panic. Instead, it helps to break the project down into smaller, digestible chunks, then work on each one until the overall project is complete. 
  • Relaxation Techniques – Getting emotionally overwhelmed prevents students from being able to focus on their class lectures and schoolwork. It can also allow negative thoughts to get in the way and push positive ones aside. Instead, learning relaxation techniques can help students control their thoughts, reign in their emotions, and get things done. 
  • Using a Timer – Timers are great for students who end up focusing on non-school related things for far too long. By setting a timer and only playing video games or surfing the web until it dings, students have an easier time staying on track and prioritizing their daily tasks (while still having some fun along the way). 

The Morton Family Learning Center

Created and designed for Dean College students who have documented learning disabilities and need additional assistance, the Morton Family Learning Center teaches important executive functioning strategies for college students, among many other things. 

The Learning Center offers everything from academic coaching, which is a fee-based program designed to help students enhance their time management and writing skills, to accessibility services that help students succeed. This includes working with students to help them set up calendars and learn about other techniques that will assist with their executive functioning along their journey here at Dean College. 

Want to Explore Additional Executive Functioning Options? 

At Dean College, We Want Your Student to Succeed!

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