ADHD In College Students
Dr. Brian Anderson, associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University, helps explain ADHD and how it can negatively impact academic success.
By Sydnie Harrell, Office of Undergraduate Studies at Texas A&M University
College students with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) can exhibit less confidence in their academic ability, often receive lower grades than peers and tend to be more concerned about social relationships according to an article published in PubMed Central. These circumstances can negatively impact a student’s success, especially if they do not receive an ADHD diagnosis until college.
Dr. Brian Anderson, associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University, has been studying attention for the past 12 years. Since ADHD is on the periphery of his research, Anderson provided his general understanding based on his experiences.
“If students can maintain acceptable academic performance during the pre-college years, they may not be aware of the extent of their condition until the demand for sustained attention is great enough to bring their limitations to light,” Anderson said. “ADHD can look different for different people.”
Disability Resources Assistive Technology Coordinator Justin Romack, who has been working at Texas A&M University for seven years and is diagnosed with ADHD, provided a resource perspective on the subject.
“A lot of times students, especially with nonapparent disabilities like ADHD or mental health, aren’t diagnosed with those things until they get into college,” Romack. “Sometimes students are like ‘But I’ve been fine until this point.’ Well, you’re fine now; the barriers are just a little different in this environment, so we need to work together to figure out what those are.”
Challenges of Having ADHD in College:
Academics – According to an article published earlier this year in the “Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology,” some college students with ADHD had lower GPAs than students without ADHD. “Academic performance is one of the most typical contexts in which life impairment due to ADHD is experienced,” Anderson said.
Being seen as “lazy” – A senior at Texas A&M, who chose to remain anonymous so as to not disclose her medical information, said she wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until her senior year of college because her symptoms were blamed on laziness. “In [others’] eyes, I was just a quiet, studious girl who just had a tendency to hyper-focus on things and be ‘lazy,’” the student said.
Time management – High school often has more structure compared to college; adjusting to a more flexible environment can be challenging and negatively impact a student’s academic performance and social life. “I struggled with studying, time management and hyper-focusing on grades, social life and unfortunately food,” the student said.
Seeking Resources and Accommodations:
For those struggling with ADHD, Disability Resources offers equitable accommodations including, but not limited to, increased time for testing, limited-distraction environments and access to note-taking services.
“Our primary role in working with students is determining and facilitating academic accommodations,” Romack said. “For a student with ADHD, that’s engaging with them to understand what that disability means to them, the barriers they encounter in their academics, what accommodations they may have used before and [finding] some we think are reasonable given the barriers they face.”
Romack added that students often hesitate to reach out to Disability Services for two reasons: they’re concerned their disability will be made public to the campus community or that they will have an unfair advantage over other students. Romack said that all filed disabilities are confidential to their office and that it is up to the student on whether they want to disclose that information.
“Our focus is equitable access; it’s not an unfair advantage, it’s not a level up, it’s not a handout, it is ‘Hey student. You earned this moment. We want to make sure that you have equity to access all that comes along with that,’” Romack said.
For students that think they may have ADHD, Disability Resources provides a list of evaluators every semester. If they do receive a diagnosis, students should follow the steps of reaching out to Disability Resources, self-reporting and providing documentation. From here, accommodations can be discussed, and students may be referred to additional campus resources such as the Academic Success Center (ASC).
More information on Anderson’s research can be found here. Additional resources for students with ADHD include Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Counseling and Assessment Clinic (CAC).
Editor’s Note: Originally published here by the Office of Undergraduate Studies at Texas A&M University.