Skip to content

What is it like to study for students with ADHD?

What is it like to study with ADHD? Silke and Jasmijn recognise each other’s story, but they cope differently. Allard offers help.

When she was young, Social Work student Silke often felt different from others. ‘I was a bit wilder than the rest and I was always the one who talked the loudest.’ Fellow student Jasmijn (20) had difficulty concentrating in primary school. ‘I was either chatting or I was thinking about what I wanted to do after school.’

‘I didn’t realise how much harder I had to work… when I found out, it was too late’

‘If something is ambiguous, people with ADHD drop out quickly,’ says student psychologist Allard van Leeuwen. ‘They make many different connections, often lose themselves in daydreams and are easily distracted. Their minds are already on the next topic.’

In secondary school, Silke and Jasmijn found it difficult to do their work ahead of time. ‘I always learnt at the last minute because I need that pressure to get to work properly. At Hanze that’s more difficult because you have to do much more beforehand,’ says Silke. Jasmijn: ‘At secondary school, I didn’t have to study hard to get good grades. Later, at another school, I didn’t realise how much harder I had to work. When I found out, it was too late.’

‘When quantity and complexity increase, planning, organisation and structure are very important and that is something people with ADHD often have more trouble with,’ Allard explains. According to him ADHDs are often intelligent, creative, open and social people. ‘Actually, these are beautiful character traits,’ he says.

‘Being diagnosed with ADHD helped: ‘Finally I could explain what was wrong’

Silke found it especially difficult to mask her emotions. ‘I experience positive emotions intensely, but negative emotions too. Then I feel the pressure.’ When Silke’s relationship broke up, it became too much for her. ‘I was suffering so much from negative emotions that I had to seek help.’

Being diagnosed with ADHD helped her. ‘It was a relief, finally I could explain what was wrong to others.’ Jasmijn, on the other hand, does not want an official diagnosis. ‘When I was 15, my psychologist said I had many of the characteristics of ADHD. But I didn’t want to have this diagnosed because my sister who has ADHD was sometimes labelled negatively.’
Allard: ‘Students with ADHD have often already had bad experiences at primary school, where they are labelled as restless and inattentive.’

Medication or no medication?

With an official diagnosis, you can take ADHD medication. ‘Whether medication works really depends on the person,’ says Allard. In creative studies, he says, it can backfire. ‘Medication may suppress their creativity.’ Silke uses the medication only when she really needs it. ‘When I need peace in my head. But at times when things are going well, the medication also flattens my happy emotions.’

Jasmijn decided to look for other solutions with her mother. ‘We started planning together. As a result, I have learnt to recognise when I’m drifting more quickly.’

Diagnosis or no diagnosis, Hanze UAS offers help

You can get help at Hanze without a diagnosis. Allard: ‘If we strongly suspect that a student has ADHD, we just take the same approach. We go through tips and tricks and see what helps.’ In some cases, having a diagnosis has clear benefits. ‘These students can get extra time for tests, or they can them on their own in a separate room.’

You can find information about studying successfully with ADHD on the Hanze website. At Hanze Student Support, you can go to psychologists individually or to group training sessions for a better self-image or to help you overcome your fear of failure. Fear of failure and a negative self-image are common among people with ADHD. Allard: ‘When you have received lots of negative feedback on your performances from a young age, this can have a negative impact later in life.’