College Students With ADHD Have Lower Grades, Higher Dropout Rates – Consumer Health News
WEDNESDAY, March 3, 2021 (HealthDay News) – College students with attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) find it harder to graduate than their peers, according to a new study.
The researchers found that out of 400 students they followed, those with ADHD had a lower grade point average (GPA) – about half a grade lower – than students with no disorder. The gap arose in the first year and persisted throughout the course.
And in the end, students with ADHD were less likely to make it through four years.
The results are starting to fill a knowledge gap, the researchers said.
Although the college years are a critical time for young people with ADHD, pretty little is known about how they are doing.
“Transitioning to college is difficult even for students without ADHD,” said Christopher La Lima, a child and adolescent psychologist who was not involved in the study.
That’s partly because the college involves more than just academics, according to La Lima, who works at NYU Langone Health’s Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital in New York City.
In sharp contrast to their high school days, he said, college students are alone in managing their time and staying organized without parents or teachers paying close attention.
Then there are the many distractions that come with new independence, new living conditions, and new friends.
Even the academic part is different from high school, La Lima noted. For example, the deadlines can extend over long periods of time, which can easily lead to delays and last-minute “cramming”.
A disorder of self-regulation
George DuPaul, professor of school psychology at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is the lead researcher on the study.
He also said that even if children with ADHD do well academically – good enough to go to four year college – they still struggle with the distractions of college life.
“ADHD is a self-regulatory disorder,” said DuPaul. And when the support system from parents and teachers is gone, it’s a challenge, he added.
For the study, DuPaul and colleagues from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the University of Rhode Island tracked 406 students over eight semesters. As a freshman, 97 had ADHD and were taking medication, while another 104 had the disorder but were not taking any medication. The rest (205) did not have ADHD.
On average, students with ADHD had lower GPA over every four years. Those on medication were particularly lagging. For the past two years, the GPA has been around 2.5. In contrast, students without ADHD generally had a GPA greater than 3.0.
The reasons are not clear. But, DuPaul said, students who took medication may have had more severe symptoms.
After four years, the students with ADHD were again left behind. Of those not taking medication, 49% have either completed or completed eight semesters, compared with 59% of students without ADHD.
That number was slightly higher – 54% – among students taking ADHD medication.
It’s not that colleges don’t offer support to students with ADHD. According to DuPaul, the sites have services including academic assistance and housing such as written instructions (rather than just oral), permission to record lectures, or extra time to take tests.
Are you going to ask for help?
But since college students are adults, they must seek the services.
One of the notable findings in this study, DuPaul said, was how few students with ADHD participated.
“More than half received no academic support,” he said.
It’s not clear why, but DuPaul said some students might not have known the services existed while others might have existed.
Sometimes students resist help because they want to be “independent” or not appear “weak”.
But both DuPaul and La Lima encouraged students to get the services they need. Parents can do their part by talking to their children – before they go to college – about the challenges that may arise and how they can get help.
It’s also important that children with ADHD don’t beat themselves up for poor performance, La Lima said.
“At some point you will drop the ball,” he said. “Nobody is perfect.”
DuPaul noted that the overall mental health of students is critically important. People with ADHD often have concurrent medical conditions, including depression. And in this study, students with symptoms of depression generally had greater difficulty studying.
Providing mental health services to these students is also important, according to DuPaul.
The study results were published online February 2 in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.
The Attention Deficit Disorder Association has more about ADHD and college services.
SOURCES: George DuPaul, PhD, Professor, School Psychology, College of Education, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Penn .; Christopher La Lima, PhD, child and adolescent psychologist, Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, NYU Langone Health, New York City; Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, February 2, 2021, online