FRIDAY, Aug. 17, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- For students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, making the transition to college can be especially difficult. But by adopting certain strategies, such as sticking to a structured daily schedule and tapping into the university's disability support services, freshman with ADHD can do well, according to experts and teens with the condition.
"The ones who are going to do best are those who come to college prepared, who are aware of their weaknesses and have some strategies for compensating," said Kristy Morgan, a recent Kansas State University doctoral graduate in student affairs and higher education who conducted in-depth interviews with eight college freshman with ADHD about what they learned from the experience.
Certain themes emerged.
While most students said they got through high school without having to study much, they found college classes much tougher -- and most felt they didn't have the study skills to handle it.
"They were able to get through junior high and high school pretty well, and get good enough grades to get into college," Morgan said. "Then they got to college. They were finding they had to study very independently, and there were less in-class opportunities for test prep, and it was more difficult."
Students with ADHD also said they looked forward to the "freedom" of a less regimented college schedule, yet they found it more difficult to manage their time without the structure that high school provides.
"In many households, teenagers with ADHD rely to varying degrees on their parents to help in terms of time management and organization, helping to prioritize, keeping their things organized, staying focused on deadlines and making sure they strike an appropriate balance between leisure and studies," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York. "When they go to college, pretty much most of that is out the window."
Particularly for kids who are prone to immediate gratification or have difficulties with impulsivity, college offers endless distraction, Adesman said. "They may be prone to indulge in one form of distraction or another. It could be relaxing and not studying, or drinking and partying," Adesman said.
And even though many universities have disability support services that students with ADHD can turn to for extra help, only two of the eight students had done so. The other six said they either weren't aware such a service was available, or they hadn't gotten around to asking for assistance, which can include tutoring or test-taking accommodations, such as taking exams in quiet, distraction-free rooms.
Some students may have also shied away from seeking the extra support because of "embarrassment or shame, not wanting to be different from others in the class, or they had misperceptions about what those services involved," Morgan said.
Despite the challenges, five of the eight students were having a successful freshman year, Morgan said.
To help students with ADHD make the transition to college, the experts offered teens and parents these tips:
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on ADHD.