College Students Diagnosed with ADHD: Insights Into Their Experiences

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe and understand the experiences of students diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who axe enrolled in a postsecondary institution. The experiences of these postsecondary students were defined as how they made sense of their school experiences and how those earlier educational experiences informed their current educational program and shaped their hopes and dreams for the future. Participants in the study included three university students who have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Two of the students were diagnosed as children and one student was diagnosed after beginning her second year of enrollment at a university.

While the literature is rich with studies examining ADHD and the ensuing conditions, effects, and possible treatments from the standpoint of teachers, practitioners, and medical personnel, little has been written about the experience of living with ADHD from the viewpoint of someone diagnosed with ADHD. This study sought to add to this body of knowledge.

The study focused on the educational experiences of three students attending a Midwestern state university. Three intensive interviews were conducted. Data were analyzed and two major categories emerged (a) believe in me, and (b) learning opportunities, strategies, & support. Out of the first category, believe in me, two major themes developed:

1. Teacher and parental attitudes toward the participants directly affected their attitude and sense of self.

2. Teacher interactions with the participants directly impacted not only their educational experiences but also their attitudes and perceptions of themselves as learners.

Out of the second category, learning opportunities, strategies and support, two themes emerged:

1. Students who have ADHD need to have on-going support and appropriate modeling as they begin to understand their disability and develop appropriate strategies and study skills.

2. Students who have ADHD often experience an academic and personal rollercoaster ride as they negotiate the landscape between support from others and demonstrating independence and responsibility.

Recommendations were made for educators working with students diagnosed with ADHD at both the K-12 and postsecondary levels. Implications for further research were also indicated.

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