ADHD and College: I Flunked but Still Made the Dean's List

March 11, 2020 Tonie Ansah

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) makes college harder. Two-point-nine, 2.9 was my GPA when I graduated from the local community college in the Winter of 2016 with a then three-week-old baby and three-year-old toddler. But I didn't care because "Cs still get degrees," and I already spent five years at that school. So how did I go from a failing teen skipping class every Tuesday and Thursday to the straight-A student on the academic Dean's List eight years later? The answer to my success with ADHD in college may surprise you, and none of it included stimulant medication. 

My Experience with ADHD and College

I Wasn't Ready for College with ADHD or Otherwise

My college career began just a week after my high school graduation because, according to my mom, "I wasn't going to be runnin' around all summer with those girls."

So to keep me out of trouble, I was enrolled full-time at the community college against my will. Initially, I had every intention of keeping up with my schoolwork and showing up to class. But the freedom that comes with college made that intention hard to fulfill. Soon I was spending my 8 A.M. American Government class at my boyfriends' house or getting high in the backseat of my best friend's car. 

In hindsight, I should've dropped my courses when it became apparent I wasn't going to pass, but instead, I finished all four classes that semester with a D, destroying my GPA. 

Taking Classes Online Gave Me Control 

I got a majority of my boring classes done during my community college years before transferring to a university--so my time there was honed in on subjects I'm passionate about like kinesiology and psychology. Since ADHD brains are notorious for operating in "what I rather do," studying topics I was already interested in made college pretty exciting.

The added benefit of taking courses online, however, made college achievable. I no longer had to sit for extended periods, I could break up study sessions into 35-minute sections, and I had the freedom to work when my attention was it's sharpest. Long story short, I was interested and engaged, so I was thriving.  

A big part of my success during my undergrad can be contributed to several factors:

  1. I had too much to lose. I had a family, a full-time job, and bills, so I didn't have time to lollygag. 
  2. I exercised often and used the momentum after workouts to get homework done.
  3. I ate in a way that minimized my ADHD symptoms ("Diet for ADHD: Does Food Really Make a Difference?"). 
  4. I got organized with my schoolwork. I kept a binder with all assignments and corresponding due dates so that I wouldn't forget them. 

Learn from Me and My Experience with ADHD and College

The lessons to be learned here are this:

  • Don't get pregnant.
  • It's okay if you're not ready for college. Take some time off, get clear about what interests you, and write down what you hope to achieve in college. 
  • ADHD makes college more challenging in an environment that's not conducive to how you learn. If you need the structure and accountability that comes with physically going to class, only go face to faceIf you like the freedom and flexibility that comes with online courses, take online courses. And if you're not sure, take one of each and see how you do.
  • GPA is often stressed. I harped on it here as a measure of my progress, but the truth is this: GPA is only important when it matters to you and specific programs. Cs still get degrees, as long as the program you're in or one day hopes to be in don't expect a minimum of (insert number here). 
  • And lastly, my situation isn't unique or special. I'm just like you, and when given the right resources, you don't just fly, you soar.

If you have any questions or comments about getting through college with ADHD, please leave a comment down below.

APA Reference
Ansah, T. (2020, March 11). ADHD and College: I Flunked but Still Made the Dean's List, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Tonie Ansah

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