ADHD & College: Being a Neurodivergent Student
College with ADHD can be challenging on different levels. What struggles can you face as a student with this neurodevelopmental condition, and what can you do to overcome them? The answers and more in this article.
Table of Contents
ADHD & College: Being a Neurodivergent Student
1. What's the Typical College Life for Many Students with ADHD?
2. ADHD, Mental Health, and Going to College
3. What Should College Students with ADHD Do To Get Through?
4. Treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Among College Students
ADHD & College FAQs
Surviving College with ADHD
Some say that going to college or a university is the best part of their lives. In college, students experience an insane roller coaster of emotions from happiness to sadness, excitement to resentment, love, fear, and much, much more. 🙌 College life often gives an exciting time to those students who do not have learning disabilities, mental health issues, or neurodevelopmental conditions. However, for some of those who have a neurodivergent condition, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), college life can be stressful and counter-productive.
Some college students with ADHD may find it extremely challenging to juggle between classes, assignments, social life, and extracurricular activities while experiencing ADHD symptoms. Other college students might be able to squeeze in fun in between their studies, but with ADHD, it can be an entirely different game.
Typical College Life for Many Students with ADHD
College with ADHD students might be more like a juggling act. 😭 They usually try to balance their time and energy between different activities, but at times, it never works out well. This is because they usually have a shorter attention span, which can make focusing on one task difficult. In addition, since most of these students are also highly energetic, they may find it hard to sit still and pay attention for an extended period.
Many students with ADHD may sometimes have poor time management skills because they are usually torn between vital activities, such as getting adequate sleep, going around and experiencing the college environment, and gaining new friends. Their working memory can also be affected because some of these students with ADHD might lack focus because of their overwhelming thoughts.
Take me, for instance. 🙋♀️ When I was a college student, I tried joining several clubs because I wanted to start a new hobby. However, I found it difficult to do these extra-curricular activities because I suddenly lost interest while doing them. I was undiagnosed back then; I didn't know that the struggles I have were linked to my ADHD symptoms. At first, I thought I had learning disabilities or just had a hard time paying attention, but when I finally had my ADHD diagnosis years later, everything made sense. The life cycle of hobbies for an ADHD brain can be quite complex.
ADHD, Mental Health, and Going to College
A typical student may have minor problems regarding their mental health when attending college. 👩💻 But, some college students with ADHD may go through a different level of challenges during the whole course. The factors aren't just limited to social skills and remembering important dates or taking notes. They can go as deep as having learning difficulties and having to skip class because of depression and anxiety.
That's why the college's counseling center plays an integral role in improving the college experience of students with ADHD. 💪 As much as possible, they should provide academic support to students with a learning difficulty, have an academic advisor to offer study sessions and remedial classes, and conduct seminars and talks regarding mental health and ADHD diagnosis. It would also be great if they can monitor college students with ADHD regularly to know if they are doing well or are already in need of assistance. More negative consequences might rise if these students are disregarded for their mental health needs.
What Should College Students with ADHD Do To Get Through?
Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can be both a blessing and a curse for college life. It all boils down to how you manage your condition. Many students with ADHD should properly apply time management skills to avoid negative consequences. However, staying organized when it comes to schedule can be a struggle for an ADHD brain.
Experts say some people with ADHD have "time blindness." They can't always see time as other people do and usually overestimate or miscalculate how much time they have for a particular task. But, time management is essential for students with ADHD, and they must learn how to use this unique skill to their advantage during college. 👌
Hyperfocus is another ADHD symptom that an ADHD brain can experience. While other students cannot spend extended time on a single task, a person with ADHD can sometimes easily do this even without taking a break. However, hyperfocus can have complications since it can cause them to ignore their surroundings and focus on what they are doing or studying. For this reason, you should think of your ADHD brain as a double-edged sword: you must learn how to use it right.
Procrastination is a big problem among many ADHD college students, so studying for their midterm exams a week or so before the test can be a cause of concern. When it comes to learning, they might have difficulty focusing on what needs to be done immediately or which activities are not on the priority list. Many students with ADHD tend to overlook this situation and time management is still the key to solving it.
Several strategies are then formulated for those college students that have difficulties in these organizational skills.
- Know your goals and priorities before going to college. We know that having that college experience is great, but it's essential to understand why you are there. Knowing which are included in your higher priority list and which among them can be put on hold 'til next time is crucial to identify your goals.
- Incoming students, especially those with ADHD, need a brief background and understanding of what's waiting ahead of them. This can significantly help in setting expectations and managing their emotions. The transition from high school to college can be difficult, and for some students with ADHD, it might be more challenging.
- Many students have the privilege to choose which college campuses they want to attend. If you have ADHD, take advantage of this and select a known school for its support programs for students with ADHD. Many schools and universities are known to have support services for college students with ADHD.
- Being a college student with ADHD, it is essential to choose your peers wisely. Most students with ADHD might have a hard time during college, so it is crucial to have the social support that you'll need during these times. 🥰 Have someone who will be your confidante and can help you find the most effective treatment or approach for your condition.
- Take time to understand yourself even more. An effective treatment for an ADHD brain is acceptance. Learn to know your ADHD strengths and weaknesses and use them to survive and enjoy college. Attend ADHD coaching to know what's your edge among other students or what you are better in.
- Failures are part of life, and everyone experiences them. Learn to manage stress and stay focused on the end goal. Whether getting good grades and achieving excellent academic performance or surviving college, it is entirely up to your choices.
- Use your resources wisely. Having an ADHD brain requires a lot of executive functioning, which can further lead to burnout. There are support services that can help you out, so take advantage of them. College students with ADHD should maximize college campuses with academic accommodations that can help them attend college without any hassles.
- Talk to your professors. 👨⚖️ Let them know of your condition and see if they can provide any assistance, such as extensions for deadlines or recommending ADHD-friendly accommodations. If you have learning difficulties and need support, do tell them upfront to help you out. Remember that they are there to teach, not terrorize students with ADHD.
- Last but not least, don't be afraid to ask for help! College can be overwhelming at times. What you are going through is valid. Reports say many students with ADHD have a hard time during college, so don't be ashamed to ask for help from your family, friends, or professionals.
Managing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Among College Students
There are different approaches to minimize the impact of ADHD symptoms on students in college. Some students with ADHD may try hard and get through college, but if everything is still unbearable, maybe it's time to do something about it. If the symptoms brought by ADHD affect a person's life, it's time to seek professional help.
There are many ways to manage the symptoms of ADHD as a college student. Taking ADHD medications is just one way to do so. It is also essential to seek professional help for diagnosis. They will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to evaluate your condition. This can help you better understand your ADHD type, how you can get the proper academic support, or the medications prescribed to your needs. Also, college students with ADHD may have cognitive behavioral therapy to complement the ADHD medications they are taking.
I know this is a lot for students with ADHD. Still, with the proper mindset, supportive and excellent environment, and willingness to thrive, college experience, despite having ADHD, can be fun, memorable, and life-changing.
ADHD and College: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
1. Is college hard if you have ADHD?
College can be more challenging to some people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder compared to students who do not have a neurodevelopmental condition. The symptoms of ADHD can interfere with the student’s attention span and focus. Impulsivity can also lead them to decide badly on important matters. However, there are steps to overcome these challenges. Get in touch with a healthcare professional if you are worried.
2. Do colleges care if their students have ADHD?
Many colleges care if their students have ADHD, and not in a bad way. Some require applicants to disclose any condition that might affect their academic performance. In those cases, you must disclose your ADHD diagnosis. If they do not ask for it, you may open a discussion about it particularly if you feel that you need more support in the application process. Some schools may give leeway to students with ADHD.
3. What college is best for people with ADHD?
Colleges that offer support specifically for students with ADHD are always an excellent choice. You may want to create a list and ponder on the colleges and universities with your family or friends.