College students with ADHD are a unique group and, in several ways, likely differ from their same-age peers with ADHD who do not matriculate in college. For example, college students with ADHD tend to have strong cognitive abilities 1 and more effective compensatory skills than their same-age peers with ADHD who are not in college 2. College students with ADHD also assuredly experience different stressors (e.g., academic pressure) than same-age peers with ADHD who do not pursue college. In this way, college students with ADHD are likely a distinct subset of individuals with ADHD.
Academically, first semester college freshmen with ADHD (especially males) arrive on campus reporting higher levels of school disengagement, more substance use and significantly more emotional difficulties than peers without ADHD 3. Given this, it is not surprising that during their first two years of college, students with ADHD attain lower GPA’s than peers without ADHD (Cohen’s d = 0.43) and earn fewer course credits (d = 0.31) across all four semesters 4.
Emotionally, college students with ADHD (especially females) report higher levels of anxiety and depression than peers without ADHD 5-9. Depression seems especially impactful and is associated with social maladjustment 10, lower quality of life 11, explains academic impairments above and beyond ADHD symptoms 12 and mediates the relationship between past ADHD symptoms (yet not current symptoms) and cannabis use 13, possibly supporting a self-medication hypothesis / negative reinforcement model for cannabis use for some with ADHD. Finally, multiple studies have documented increased prevalence of suicidal ideation in college students with ADHD diagnoses or elevated ADHD symptoms 14-16. Unfortunately, college students with ADHD and depression use on-campus resources at especially low rates 17.
If you have an interest in college students with ADHD and discussing any topic related to college student ADHD, please consider joining the College Student with ADHD SIG. We are a group of allied mental health professionals and trainees who share an interest in improving the quality of care for 4-year and 2-year college students with ADHD through the advancement and dissemination of research, and evidence-based practices. If you’d like to join the group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Weyandt LL, Oster DR, Gudmundsdottir BG, DuPaul GJ, Anastopoulos AD. Neuropsychological functioning in college students with and without ADHD. Neuropsychology. 2017;31(2):160-172.
- Frazier TW, Youngstrom EA, Glutting JJ, Watkins MW. ADHD and achievement: meta-analysis of the child, adolescent, and adult literatures and a concomitant study with college students. Journal of Learning Disabilities 2007;40:49-65.
- DuPaul GJ, Pinho T, Pollack BL, Gormley MJ, Laracy SD. First-Year College Students With ADHD and/or LD: Differences in Engagement, Positive Core Self-Evaluation, School Preparation, and College Expectations. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 2017;50:238-251.
- DuPaul GJ, Franklin MK, Pollack BL, et al. Predictors and Trajectories of Educational Functioning in College Students With and Without Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Postsecondary Education Disability. 2018;31(2):161-178.
- Nelson JM, Liebel SW. Anxiety and depression among college students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Cross-informant, sex, and subtype differences. Journal of American College Health. 2018;66(2):123-132.
- Anastopoulos AD, DuPaul GJ, Weyandt LL, et al. Rates and Patterns of Comorbidity Among First-Year College Students With ADHD. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. 2018;47(2):236-247.
- Mochrie KD, Whited MC, Cellucci T, Freeman T, Corson AT. ADHD, depression, and substance abuse risk among beginning college students. J Am Coll Health. 2018:1-5.
- Coduti WA, Hayes JA, Locke BD, Youn SJ. Mental health and professional help-seeking among college students with disabilities. Rehabil Psychol. 2016;61(3):288-296.
- Rabiner DL, Anastopoulos AD, Costello J, Hoyle RH, Swartzwelder HS. Adjustment to college in students with ADHD. J Atten Disord. 2008;11(6):689-699.
- Sheehan WA, Iarocci G. Executive Functioning Predicts Academic But Not Social Adjustment to University. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2019;23(14):1792-1800.
- Gudjonsson GH, Sigurdsson JF, Eyjolfsdottir GA, Smari J, Young S. The relationship between satisfaction with life, ADHD symptoms, and associated problems among university students. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2009;12(6):507-515.
- Rabiner DL, Anastopoulos AD, Costello J, Hoyle RH, Swartzwelder HS. Adjustment to college in students with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2008;11:689-699.
- Morse MC, Benson K, Flory K. Disruptive Behavior Disorders and Marijuana Use: The Role of Depressive Symptoms. Substance Abuse. 2015;9(Suppl 1):69-76.
- Van Eck K, Ballard E, Hart S, Newcomer A, Musci R, Flory K. ADHD and Suicidal Ideation: The Roles of Emotion Regulation and Depressive Symptoms Among College Students. J Atten Disord. 2015;19(8):703-714.
- Eddy LD, Eadeh HM, Breaux R, Langberg JM. Prevalence and predictors of suicidal ideation, plan, and attempts, in first-year college students with ADHD. Journal of American College Health. 2019:1-7.
- Patros CH, Hudec KL, Alderson RM, Kasper LJ, Davidson C, Wingate LR. Symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) moderate suicidal behaviors in college students with depressed mood. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 2013;69(9):980-993.
- Gormley MJ, DuPaul GJ, Weyandt LL, Anastopoulos AD. First-Year GPA and Academic Service Use Among College Students With and Without ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2019;23(14):1766-1779.