Since ADHD is a Specific Learning Difficulty you may be entitled to claim extra financial help such as the Disabled Students’ Allowance. More information is available from the Government’s website here.
1. SpLD Assessment Standards Committee (SASC): ADHD Guidance September 2013
2. Student Finance: information on the Government’s website about tuition fees, loans, grants, and bursaries.
3. Disability Support in Higher Education: Free information from DirectGov
4. DSA-QAG: This is a charity that provides comprehensive information about the Disabled Students’ Allowances.
5. The Open University: provides university level education to everyone regardless of their circumstances or where they live.
The following list contains options for support that other students with ADHD received from their universities and that they found to be helpful.
1. A mentor to help with planning and organising work load/projects and to help with staying on task.
2. A Dictaphone to record lectures so that you can listen to them again.
3. A helper to assist with note taking and with staying on task.
We have adapted and updated the following from an article that was written in August 2005 for the CHADD magazine by George J DuPaul, Ph.D., Cheryl A. Ashcroft, M.Ed., and Lisa L. Weyandt, Ph.D.
The original article identified 3 major potential pitfalls that students with ADHD may experience and then offered strategies for dealing with them.
Pitfall 1: Lack of Self-Awareness
Because of chronic difficulties with inattention and/or impulsivity, students with ADHD may be less prepared to identify their own strengths and weaknesses as well as to formulate plans to address the challenges of university.
Know your Strengths and Weaknesses:
At university, students must learn to compensate for weaknesses while capitalising on strengths.
If you haven’t already had your strengths and weaknesses evaluated as part of the diagnostic process, visit the student support service at your university and ask for an assessment (there may be a fee for this service). As an example of what to expect here is a link to a page from Student Support Services at Cardiff University.
Be Real and Realistic
Many students come to university because of the expectations of others, such as parents, older siblings, and friends. When this occurs, they may find themselves choosing an area of study that does not use their innate talents or is not consistent with their career interests. This can lead to frustration and feelings of inadequacy.
Stay true to your interests and be realistic with regard to your career goals. Advise from others can be well meaning, but pressure to conform can be overwhelming. Knowing and understanding your own strengths and weaknesses will help you to stay true (see strategy 1).
Know Your Coping Mechanisms
Transitional periods can be very stressful and starting university is a major transition. When students become overwhelmed by the volume of work or the pace of university life, avoidance techniques may start to emerge. Here are a few avoidance techniques that can do more harm than good, if not self-monitored.
Keep stress to a minimum. Studying on a regular basis can minimise the stress of university. Building a healthy support system through connections with friends, faculty, and support staff will keep you on track. If you experience difficulties with course work, meet with the instructor before you begin to fail. Seek the assistance of the Student Support Office if you continue to struggle.
Confront Your Fears
Students who procrastinate may feel overwhelmed and embarrassed if they have missed an important project, exam or assignment. Avoiding the situation can create a host of new problems that may be more difficult to resolve.
Confront your fears by being honest with your professors and tutors and by asking for help. Work closely with a coach, counsellor, or student support services to assist you with developing effective problem-solving skills.
Pitfall 2: Poor Time Management
To be successful at universities, students must attend lectures, tutorials, labs, study for exams, and complete assignments in a timely fashion. Students with ADHD may have significant difficulties in effectively managing their time to meet these basic requirements.
Missing lectures is the number one reason students do poorly at university.
Think of university as “going to work.” This is your full-time job! Attending lectures on a regular basis will help to keep you focused and aware of course expectations. Do not give yourself the option of missing lectures unless you are really sick. Once you fall behind, it is very difficult to catch up.
Participate in Lectures
To be successful at university, it is important that time is spent wisely when in class. Paying attention, taking notes, asking questions when unsure about something and participating in class discussions are important aspects of the learning process. Feelings of internal restlessness may interfere with classroom performance.
Monitor your ability to stay focused on the lecture or other class activities. Try to avoid being distracted by your mobile or other gadgets. One way to avoid distractions is to sit as close to the front as possible. If you have trouble listening and taking notes at the same time, audiotape the lecture and/or arrange for a note-taker. Find a fellow student who is willing to share and compare notes (to ensure accuracy) after each lecture.
Prepare for Exams
At university, most learning may occur outside the classroom. Staying on top of reading assignments, outlining chapters, and practicing problems are essential to succeeding. Students with ADHD will often procrastinate about doing homework, especially if they do not have to hand it in or if it is of little interest. And because some exams may occur infrequently, it will be difficult to learn several weeks work in two or three nights before the exam. Students who procrastinate may feel overwhelmed by university academic life, and this can lead to feelings of guilt, depression, and inadequacy.
From the first day of lectures, study on a regular basis. Homework, even when it is not assigned, is an essential part of the learning process and will help you to determine just how well you know the material you will be expected to comprehend. Schedule regular study sessions during the day or early evening. Do your work first, and then you’ll still have time to spend with your friends. If your university’s student support services offers coaching or mentoring to help you stay on track, take advantage of it.
Maintain Focus and Balance
Staying focused and maintaining balance between the academic and social demands of university can be a challenge for any student. This challenge can be especially demanding for students with ADHD. Being independent and having an enormous amount of freedom also means learning to be responsible and accountable for your actions.
If motivation is an issue, start a small study group with fellow students or a scheduled study time with one other student. Use a daily planner (electronic or paper) to enter daily activities. You will have plenty of time for fun if you can balance your academic and social responsibilities.
Pitfall 3: Not Meeting Basic Needs
With newfound independence, university students with ADHD may have difficulty keeping a consistent sleep schedule, eating nutritionally balanced meals and making healthy life decisions.
Establish a Healthy Sleep Schedule
University can disrupt most students’ sleep schedules with late nights and a shift in lifestyle, but for students with ADHD this can be even more problematic.
Students need to be mindful of when they are taking their stimulant medication to optimise its effectiveness and prevent sleep disturbances. Take your medication at the same time every day. Get your course work done during the day and early evening so that you do not get into the habit of taking your medication late at night to study.
Wake Up on Time
Disruptive sleep patterns can lead to missing lectures. Both morning and afternoon lectures can be habitually missed due to a student’s inability to wake up in the morning or due to taking long afternoon naps.
First, regulate your sleep schedule. Try to go to bed at the same time every night during the week and make sure that you also get an adequate amount of sleep (seven to eight hours). Next set two alarm clocks for your morning lectures. One clock should be next to your bed and the other, which is set to go off five minutes later, should be located across the room.
Develop Competent Decision-making Skills
University students need to develop good decision-making skills or at least know where to go to get sound advise and consultation. Poor decision-making can lead to credit card debt or legal problems and may disrupt the educational experience.
Begin taking responsibility for your decisions. You are making decisions about your life moment by moment. Be aware when you are making a decision, and understand the nature of your own impulsivity. Learn to explore your options before making a decision. Finally, consider the consequences of your decisions before you take them.
Develop a Support System
Students who do not feel connected with others are more prone to depression. A support system can assist students with motivation, help keep them on track, and also provide sound consultation when needed.
Get involved with university activities that will provide a healthy support system and help develop effective social skills. Get to know your professors and develop mentoring relationships with other professional staff. Consider joining a support group for individuals with ADHD if one is available either at the university or in the local community.
This is not a complete listing, but merely a compilation of the institutions that we have found that have put some information about ADHD on their websites. If you know of any that can be added to this list, please let us know via the comments box at the bottom of this page.
Newman University Birmingham
University of Plymouth (has some useful documents containing tips compiled by members of the University’s ADHD support group)
University of Worcester (this site has links to helpful teaching strategies that will help students with ADHD for many different courses)
2. Cambridge University (Interview with a mature student recently diagnosed with ADHD)
And finally do feel free to chat with other university students about all matters ADHD here on our forum.
Review date: 08/05/2013 Next review due: 08/05/2014