Suit cases are packed. Trunks are loaded down. Butterflies flit around in her stomach as the student anxiously smiles back at her parents, who are trying to wave goodbye while stifling back the sniffles from their hopeful tears. All the while, a reel of questions plays on… is she prepared for this journey? The thought is daunting for every parent and young adult, but it seems particularly intimidating when it’s a young adult with ADHD.
Studies have shown that not only are ADHD students less likely to enter college, they are also less likely to graduate from college. The strong support system that served as their compass, navigating them throughout the years, suddenly vanishes. The backbone of that support system involves parents, who offered the frequent reminders or prompts that the young adult perceived as persistent nagging, and the structured routine he or she perceived as a rigid rule. On campus and on their own, where do students turn for help?
Many students may have gone undiagnosed throughout middle and high school, because of that continued state of support from their parents. The symptoms were most likely present, but managed to a degree, not creating a level of dysfunction or interference that could be detected on a report card. However, transitioning to the college setting comes with increased academic demands and less structure. It’s within this setting that many students are forced to identify the underlying symptoms they learned to compensate for over the years. When grades decline, an individual’s self-esteem plummets. Frustration, anxiety and depression ensue. It’s important for students and parents to recognize these red flags, know the available resources, and seek the appropriate help.
Alternatively, if the student has already been diagnosed with ADHD diagnosis and is actively receiving treatment in their hometown, they may be leaving behind their family practitioner or pediatrician who prescribes them medication. When relocating to the college campus, students should contact their student health center or student support service center to see what services are available on campus or nearby. If campus health centers aren’t comfortable prescribing medications, they may seek a referral to a nearby healthcare provider to assume management of their medications. In addition to medications, academic accommodations are available. Early registration, extended test time, and separate room testing are some examples. Eligibility for such accommodations requires supporting documentation of the ADHD diagnosis from a qualified health professional. Students should prepare by looking at their college website or contacting the student disability services office to see what documentation is necessary.
Outside of the actual classroom setting, college campuses breed an air of independence for the young adult. With that newfound independence follows an opportunity to engage in what we consider higher risk behaviors. Sexual activity with multiple partners without the use of protection or contraception, consuming alcohol or illicit substances, and taking risks behind the wheel are just to name a few. It’s important to educate students on the risks and outcomes of such behaviors. Parents should encourage their child’s participation in the freshman orientation process, which may offer lectures on safe sex and substance abuse. Parents should make a conscious effort to maintain open and regular communication with their child. Also, counseling services are available on most campuses.
Students should be careful who they share their ADHD diagnosis with and always keep their prescriptions in a private, safe place. Some students may determine a social or financial gain in selling or giving away their meds to other students on campus. This should always be discouraged. Such diversion poses legal risks, jeopardizes the health of others, and can lead to academic suspension or even expulsion. For those who forget their dose on a regular basis, a pill-box will come in handy.
L. Jade Wright, PA-C
Jade Wright, PA-C works in our Charlotte, NC office treating college students, adults and children with ADHD