Research finds college students with ADHD are likely to experience significant challenges

According to a 2017 UCLA study, students with ADHD make up about 6% of the student population and are the most common type of disability supported by college’s disability boards. But do these students get enough academic support from their institutions? Although ADHD is widespread among college students, there is little research on how ADHD affects college transition and continued academic success. Until now.

New research from George DuPaul, Professor of School Psychology and Assistant Dean of Research at Lehigh University’s College of Education, and colleagues confirm that ADHD students face major challenges in college success and graduation and predict how academic success will improve can be.

The article “Academic Trajectories of College Students With and Without ADHD: Predictors of Four-Year Outcomes” by DuPaul and colleagues at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, the University of Rhode Island, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.

One of the largest and most comprehensive studies of students with ADHD ever conducted, the study is the first to systematically examine how ADHD students work over a four-year period.

“College students with ADHD are likely to experience significant academic difficulty during their college years, have a higher than average risk of leaving college, and require academic assistance both before and during their college years,” said DuPaul.

Through annual psychological and educational assessments of more than 400 college students, half of whom were identified with ADHD, the researchers rated multiple academic outcomes, including GPA by semester, progress towards graduation by academic year, self-reported learning skills by academic Year and dropout -out status. The four-year study involved participants from colleges in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, including Lehigh University and Rhode Island.

The researchers found that college students with ADHD received, on average, grades that were half a grade below their peers, and that this deficit persisted for every four years. In addition, the results showed that college students with ADHD were significantly less likely to stay enrolled across semesters.

“It was somewhat of a surprise to see the academic deficits faced by college students with ADHD, as they were students who had the skills to successfully graduate from high school and enroll in a four-year college or university “explained DuPaul. “We expected minor declines in their college education.”

Although drugs didn’t improve academic outcomes much, the researchers found that there were several variables that predicted academic success for students with ADHD, including fewer symptoms of depression, better leadership skills such as planning and time management, and high educational school as well as academic Support services in college.

DuPaul hopes the results will be of interest to higher education disability offices, health professionals and mental health professionals who work with college aged students, college teachers and administrators, and those with ADHD and their families.

“Our findings underscore the importance of providing academic support services to students with ADHD prior to enrollment in college, the critical need to improve managerial skills in these students, and the need to investigate and manage depressive symptoms in students with ADHD” he said to DuPaul.


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