Psychology Professors’ Initiative Supports Terps on Campus
By Sara Gavin
Photo by John T. Consoli/Illustration by Margaret Hall
Chase Jones* was confident and excited to start a new chapter in his life when he left his home state of Maryland to attend a large public university in the Midwest.
“I thought it would be just like high school,” he said. “But I ended up getting there and was totally overwhelmed.”
While the transition to college isn’t easy for many freshmen, Chase also has Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He struggled with the lack of structure in his academic courses and with the responsibility of managing his time on his own.
“Professors don’t really notice if you’re in class or not, and they just give you a syllabus at the beginning of the semester to follow,” Jones said. “Procrastination was a huge problem, and I wasn’t keeping up with the materials.”
Experiences like Jones’s are common among students with ADHD, prompting UMD psychology professors Andrea Chronis-Tuscano and Michael Meinzer to develop SUCCEEDS: Students Understanding College Choices, Encouraging & Executing Decisions for Success. The program, which launched this fall, provides an intensive and individualized support system for Terp students with ADHD.
“Historically, many individuals with ADHD might not have gone to college, but individuals with ADHD are going to college at higher and higher rates now, which is a great thing,” Meinzer said. “We wanted to develop this clinic to provide some scaffolding to help students make this transition.”
Through SUCCEEDS, students receive a comprehensive clinical assessment to identify their individual needs, participate in weekly group meetings and be assigned a personal coach. In addition to Chronis-Tuscano and Meinzer, doctoral and advanced master’s degree psychology students serve as coaches and provide support. The program focuses on organizational skills, goal setting and learning about ADHD.
ADHD is a chronic disorder that affects an estimated eight percent of college students nationwide. Symptoms vary but can include difficulty focusing or staying on task; problems with time management and organization; forgetfulness; impulsivity; aggression and mood swings.
One of Chronis-Tuscano’s former students did a comprehensive research project funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) comparing the behavior of college students diagnosed with ADHD to that of their non-ADHD peers. The study revealed that students with ADHD were more likely to develop problems with drugs and alcohol, to engage in risky sexual behavior and were more prone to anxiety and depression. Other studies have shown that college students with ADHD are also less likely to finish their degrees.
Chronis-Tuscano and Meinzer and their team recently completed another NIH-funded study wherein they developed a brief intervention for college students with ADHD who were experiencing drinking-related problems. However, they felt all students with ADHD, not just those with alcohol problems, could benefit from a longer-term, more comprehensive intervention program.
Chronis-Tuscano and Meinzer say programs like SUCCEEDS are rare at colleges and universities in the United States, particularly within larger institutions.
“Sometimes you hear parents say, ‘Well, I’d feel more comfortable if I sent them to a smaller school or a school that’s closer to home,’” Chronis-Tuscano said. “So, this could potentially be the type of program that would help parents of students with ADHD feel more comfortable sending their kids to a place like Maryland and it could be a model for other large schools.”
While Chase Jones’ first attempt at college didn’t end in success, he is attending the University of Maryland this fall as a junior and plans to enroll in SUCCEEDS to help him avoid repeating past mistakes.
“I’m happy for the opportunity,” Chase said. “I know I need to focus on breaking down my schedule, time management, things like that. I’m not going to mess up like I did before.”
The cost to enroll in SUCCEEDS is $2,000 for the initial semester and $1,500 for subsequent semesters. Find more information at umdadhd.org/succeeds or by emailing email@example.com.
*Student’s name has been changed to conceal his identity.
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