ADHD. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. I have ADHD, so I understand the vast struggles of those with ADHD – especially students.
The Front’s “A college student's guide to thriving with ADHD” is here to help. Straight from the horse's mouth: it’s the official, unofficial student-curated survival guide. For starters, let's debunk the obvious – yes, it's hard to focus with ADHD, but that is not the only problem that needs a solution.
As a Western Washington University student living with ADHD, I can tell you how difficult and complex it is and, hopefully, be a resource to help navigate the challenges.
The Disability Accessibility Center can be a resource for students with ADHD, according to Josef Mogharreban, director of the DAC and deputy ADA coordinator. However, Mogharreban ensured that there are many resources on campus for students to use outside of the DAC.
“While we are certainly able to provide some support … I often will refer students to additional resources like tutoring, like the Counseling [and] Wellness Center to further support the different ways that folks experience barriers on a college campus,” Mogharreban said.
The first official tip on how to survive college with ADHD: take advantage of campus resources.
As Mogharreban mentioned, Western has many on-campus resources that can be utilized by students who are facing challenges. The Counseling and Wellness Center has a Divergent Minds Support Group facilitated by neurodiversity and assessment specialist Angela Swan. There are also student-operated resources like clubs, such as Western’s Distracted Vikings Club.
Clubs can be less intimidating than looking for help from school administration. Emma Ottewell, the president of the Distracted Vikings Club, spoke about the club, ADHD in general, and shared her personal experiences as a student with ADHD.
Ottewell’s personal favorite tip for managing her ADHD is using fidgets. There are a lot of different kinds of fidgets that can be useful such as fidget spinners, fidget cubes and fidget rings.
“We had a meeting about resources on campus, and the biggest ones were the student resource center. ... The tutoring center is really great, especially because it's really hard to get the group of students together. Like, the tutoring center always has a group of students, you don't have to try to arrange a meeting with somebody,” said Mogharreban.
This can be a valuable support system for students looking for others who understand and can relate to their struggles with ADHD.
Another tip I use daily is body doubling. Body doubling is when you study or work in the same room or vicinity as someone else who is also trying to focus. Having someone around me that is also working helps me stay focused and concentrated.
I also find that studying with the same music every time helps. Continually associating a playlist with studying helps me tell my brain when it is time to focus. A simple, classical playlist works best for me. If you don’t want to listen to music, I’ve found that old TV shows I have watched repeatedly work as a good background sound.
If you are struggling with ADHD and feel the weight of the world all the time, you are not alone. Other students feel the same and resources are in place to help.
“The biggest misconception is, I think, [the] assumptions that professors or students make about my intentions, like me being late to class. [It’s] not because I don't want to go to class – I have the best intentions of going to class on time,” Ottewell said.
Third-year student Race Schultz also deals with ADHD but said he doesn’t fully know the extent of its effects on him.
Schultz emphasized the need for more outreach to students like him.
“I personally was never taught how to help my ADHD struggles beyond taking medication,” Schultz said. “I wish accommodations and resources were talked about and provided more for students at all ages with ADHD.”
It's so important for students who struggle with diagnoses like ADHD to know about resources and feel supported. With all that being said, I hope you find these accommodations and resources as helpful as they were to me.
Here is a list of additional resources for students struggling on campus, regardless of a formal ADHD diagnosis, as recommended by Emma Ottewell:
WWU Families: Supporting Your Student's Success
WWU Happy Club on Instagram
- WWU Disability and Neurodivergence Club Instagram
Avery Rossman (she/her) is an opinions reporter for The Front. When she’s not writing, you can find her in the gym or cracking jokes and laughing with her friends!