Tag Archives: ADHD

10 Tips for College Students with ADHD

college students with ADHD

For years, ADHD was thought to affect mainly elementary and high school-aged students. But increasingly, research has shown that ADHD continues to affect students into their college years and beyond.

In fact, a 2010 study published in Psychiatry Research tracked 110 boys with ADHD over a 10-year period and found that 78 percent of them continued to have full or partial ADHD symptoms as young adults. And the National Resource Center on ADHD estimates that 2 to 8 percent of college students suffer from ADHD.

Unlike high school, which is usually a highly structured environment, college tends to feature longer classes, big blocks of unstructured time, and lots of independence — all of which can be especially challenging for students with ADHD who struggle to sit still, plan ahead or make decisions in the moment.

However, that doesn’t mean college is impossible for students with ADHD. By taking some extra steps and getting outside support, students with ADHD can have a rewarding college experience. Here are 10 things that may help:

  1. Choose a College with Good Support Systems
    When researching colleges to attend, look for ones that cater to students with learning disabilities. Search for schools that offer smaller class sizes, interactive learning, alternative majors and other resources. There are also some schools that have programs specifically geared toward students with learning disabilities.
  1. Tell Your Professors
    Once you’re at school, make sure to take advantage of the help that’s offered to you. One of the most important steps is to alert your professors at the beginning of each semester to your disability so they can make accommodations for you, such as giving you more time on tests or letting you listen to audio versions of text books. You can also ask the disabilities office to help communicate with your professors about your needs.
  2. Sit at the Front… or the Back
    Since students with ADHD have a harder time concentrating, some students find it helpful to sit at the front of the classroom to reduce distractions. Other students, however, like to sit in the back of the room so they can stand up to stretch or take a break if they need to.
  3. Avoid Large Lecture Classes
    Sitting in a huge lecture hall and listening for an hour and a half might be especially challenging for a student with ADHD. Instead, when possible, try to take smaller classes that offer interactive learning experiences, such as group projects and discussions.
  4. Join a Study Group
    Studying by yourself can be hard for students with ADHD, who may struggle with comprehending the material and want to give up. Studying with others can keep you motivated and when you don’t understand something, you can ask the other students in your group for help.
  5. Use a Calendar
    Whether you use an old-school calendar or download a planning app for your phone, writing down all of your tasks for the day is key to staying focused. At the beginning of your day, try to plan out what needs to get done so you aren’t forced to have to make decisions on the fly that may overwhelm you.
  6. Take Classes That Interest You
    The more interested you are in a subject, the more likely you’ll be able to pay attention and absorb the material, says Lucy Turek, Education and Career Specialist at Yellowbrick. “You’ll be a lot more successful in life if you do something you want to do than if you do something you think you’re supposed to do,” she says.
  7. Take Classes Where You’re Active
    Not all classes in college require sitting in a classroom. Try classes such as dancing, geology, mountain climbing or other courses that get you outside and moving.
  8. Get Enough Sleep and Eat Right
    If you’re not taking care of your body, you can’t function at your best. That’s why maintaining a regular sleep schedule and eating right are so important for thinking clearly. “Having that circadian rhythm, eating the appropriate amount and exercise is all important to maintaining good brain health,” says Dana Bender, an occupational therapist who is also director of Core Competence Services at Yellowbrick.

    Bender also says maintaining good mental health is also key, so seek help if you are depressed, anxious or have other mental health issues.

  9. Stay Positive
    Although having ADHD can make studying and succeeding in college challenging, try not to get discouraged by your disability. “Have a positive viewpoint about college that it’s where you’re able to blossom and become your own person,” says Elizabeth Wade, an occupational therapist and Life Skills Specialist at Yellowbrick. “Remind yourself of what your dreams are and don’t give up on them.”

At Yellowbrick, we provide support for college students with ADHD through our Core Competence and Psychiatric Home Health Services. College students who live within a few miles of our Evanston location can receive in-home visits from staff who can help with time management, educational and career counseling, planning, organizing and executive functioning. Click here for more information on our Core Competence and Psychiatric Home Health services.

The dangers of abusing Adderall


Call it a case of unintended consequences. Twenty years ago, the prescription medication Adderall debuted as a treatment for narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A stimulant, with amphetamine as its active ingredient, Adderall helped sufferers of narcolepsy stay awake, but it also increased mental focus and endurance for those diagnosed with ADHD.

Because of its effectiveness and usually mild side effects, Adderall quickly became a common treatment for ADHD. But as its popularity increased, use of Adderall also began spreading beyond the people it was intended for. Today, students without ADHD regularly take Adderall as a study aid, in order to work longer and later than they would be able to otherwise. In 2009, 5 percent of American high school students were using Adderall for non-medical reasons, according to a University of Michigan Study—a rate that increased to 7 percent in 2013. A recent review of multiple studies published in the journal Postgraduate Medicine estimated that up to 10 percent of high school students and 5 to 35 percent of college students are misusing stimulants.

There’s no question that Adderall (along with related stimulants such as Ritalin) can be enormously helpful for young adults with ADHD, who might otherwise feel overwhelmed by the demands of schoolwork or a first job.

“For those who have documented ADHD and no history of substance abuse, Adderall can be extremely helpful in sustaining attention, following through on tasks, and other executive functioning skills required for learning,” says Dr. David Baron, Medical Director at Yellowbrick and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The Chicago Medical School.

But because Adderall directly affects the brain’s dopamine level, it can also become habit-forming, especially when it’s taken on an ad hoc, “as needed” basis, and it can be dangerous. “Taken in too-large doses, it has potentially dangerous or even lethal side effects, including hallucinations, other psychotic symptoms, strokes or heart attacks,” Baron says.

Even students who take the drug at relatively low doses are still at risk for common side effects such as loss of appetite and sleeplessness—both of which can ultimately affect their schoolwork and everyday functioning.

Researchers at the University of Michigan study have also found a link between misuse of stimulants and later substance abuse. According to a recent study of more than 40,000 individuals, children who began taking stimulant medications for ADHD in elementary school were at no greater risk for later substance abuse than the general population. But young people who began taking unprescribed ADHD medications in middle or high school—when it was easier to obtain the drugs without a medical diagnosis—were significantly more likely to abuse other drugs or alcohol in the future.

To control “recreational” Adderall use, Baron says doctors need better ways of determining exactly who has ADHD—and therefore who will benefit medically from a prescription. “Diagnosing ADHD can be complicated and at times confusing, both to patient and prescriber,” he says. Symptoms that may seem like ADHD may not be, and people who don’t experience the classic symptom of hyperactivity may still have ADHD but never be diagnosed.

“Adderall is probably both overprescribed—for those who report trouble concentrating and don’t have ADHD—and under-prescribed, for the many people whose symptoms of ADHD are either unrecognized or unreported,” he says.

As the tools for diagnosing ADHD become more sophisticated, it may become easier to determine who will truly benefit from taking Adderall. That will mean fewer prescriptions obtained by fraudulent means and less Adderall available for sale at schools. “The psychiatric profession and primary-care physicians have increasing opportunities to become more adept at differentiating actual indications for Adderall and other stimulant medications, which may increase their appropriate use,” Baron says.

Parents and educators can also help by addressing the underlying reasons students who don’t have ADHD take Adderall. Many overworked, overachieving students think the only way they can keep up is to pop a pill. Teaching better study habits, keeping workloads manageable and setting reasonable expectations are all important ways to support students who might otherwise think Adderall is the only answer.

Tips for College Students with ADHD

It’s back-to-school time, as the fall semester has begun. College students are gearing up for the return of late-night cram sessions, the countless hours spent studying, and the inevitable anxiety that goes along with acing exams. Distractions come up, like parties or concerts, and social influences may not exactly support a productive lifestyle throughout the first few weeks of school. For students with learning disabilities or mental health concerns, like ADHD, the start of the fall semester can be even more difficult to navigate. College students with ADHD should consider these suggestions as they adapt to a new routine for a successful school year.

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