College with ADHD

ADHDMoving off to college is a big step in our lives. Facing new adventures and responsibilities, it can be a daunting task. But some students come to college with an additional challenge: ADHD.
Approximately 25 percent of college students who receive disabilities services are identified with ADHD (Wolf, 2001; Wolf, Simkowitz, & Carlson, 2009).

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a medically recognized disorder that can be differentiated into three basic types:

  1. Inattentive type: individuals are disorganized, often make careless mistakes, have problems listening to others, difficulty completing tasks, they are easily distracted, and forgetful.
  2. Hyperactive-impulsive type: individuals are restless, fidgety, impatient, and they often act before thinking things through.
  3. Combined type: individuals have symptoms from both the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive type.

Almost everyone goes through periods where they display multiple of the symptoms of the disorder. Individuals who actually suffer from ADHD suffer from the symptoms so regularly and intensely that it interferes with their ability to function at school, work and in their social life. ADHD begins in childhood, showing symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive type being present before the age of seven.

ADHD continues into adulthood, generally with symptoms in partial remission, or lessened amounts of hyperactivity. There are several other conditions that have similar symptoms. It is important for individuals to be properly diagnosed, because treatment for each of these conditions varies.

With the improvement of diagnosis and treatment of ADHD since the 1990s, more high school students with ADHD are continuing on to higher education. This offers new challenges that every college student faces as well. Scheduling time for completing assignments, chores, recreation, and in many cases, working.

One of the additional challenges that college students with ADHD have is that they have difficulties estimating how much time it takes to complete tasks. College students with ADHD can also experience increased pressure, due to loss of support networks such as close friends and family who helped encourage and stay on top of them to complete their required work. These new challenges do not mean failure; many college students with ADHD are very successful. Generally, college students with ADHD have better coping skills because of the challenges they have faced in high school and having met success in the face of those challenges.

Active study styles can make it easier for college students with ADHD to remain focused

Research into adults with ADHD wasn’t started until the early 1990s. Butt we have already made some progress, even though there is always more left to be discovered. Some of the researched techniques to help college students with ADHD succeed are:

Inside of the classroom

  • Come prepared to class.
  • Ask questions and stay engaged in the classroom.
  • Learn and try different note taking strategies.
  • Use a tape recorder in class.
  • Ask for lecture outlines prior to the class from your instructor.

Outside of the classroom

  • Keep up with all assigned readings and assignments.
  • Purchase books on tape.
  • Use color, symbols, and/or diagrams when reviewing notes.
  • Study in a quiet and clutter-free environment.
  • Use active studying techniques such as write and recite.

General considerations regarding academics

  • Plan about two hours of studying for every one hour of class.
  • Keep close track of academic deadlines.
  • Meet with academic advisors regularly.
  • Seek academic accommodations well in advance.
  • Do not bite off more than you can chew, consider taking a decreased course load.

ADHD can be a lifelong challenge. There are many sources of support for college students with ADHD and even more sources of information about ADHD. It is important for college students with ADHD to develop effective study habits early on in their studies. ADHD may make developing these challenges a bit more difficult, but by keeping expectations of change reasonable, being consistent in the development of healthy study habits, trying to target key behaviors first, and keeping a positive attitude about your abilities.


For additional information regarding ADHD, please refer to the following resources:

* Survival Guide for College Students with ADD & LD by K. Nadeau

* ADD and the College Students by P. Quinn

* Succeeding in College with Attention Deficit Disorder, Issues, and Strategies for Students, Counselors, and Educators by J. Bramer

* Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults by L. Weiss


Contact Florida Tech’s Counseling & Psychological Services at 321-674-8050 if you would like to meet confidentially with a counselor to assist you in this area. The CAPS website has a variety of “Academic Success” resources.


Featured photo credit here.

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