College education is often as challenging as it is rewarding, especially for students grappling with ADHD and the rigorous demands of courses like mechanical engineering. Some students despite a shining start sometimes find themselves in a spiral of academic decline and personal struggles. The situation isn’t rare and there should be some working strategies to cope with the harsh realities of college life, mental health challenges, and the quest for resilience. Let’s find out if the Reddit community is willing to share some. 

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Key Takeaways:

  • College students with ADHD often face significant challenges in maintaining academic performance due to symptoms like inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. 
  • Academic struggles in college can lead to personal issues, including mental health challenges and lifestyle changes, such as decreased social interaction and increased solitary behaviors.
  • Effective strategies to overcome these challenges include taking breaks from academic pursuits to focus on mental health, opting for asynchronous online classes, utilizing institutional disability services for academic accommodations, and reassessing personal habits and social interactions. 

The Downward Spiral

The transition from a top-performing student to one grappling with academic challenges is a situation that’s not often discussed openly in colleges. This change is at the heart of a Reddit post by a mechanical engineering student, who shared their experience of struggling academically due to ADHD.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by patterns of behavior that include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms often begin in childhood and can continue into adulthood, affecting various aspects of an individual’s life, including their academic performance, work, and relationships.

The student’s initial college experience was marked by success, with a 4.0 GPA that showcased their dedication and love for their major. However, ADHD posed a significant obstacle. It impacted their ability to keep up with the pace of college lectures and coursework, a struggle even with medication assistance. This condition, often not visible to outsiders, played a crucial role in altering their academic performance. 

Symptoms of ADHDImpact on Academic PerformanceImpact on Mental Health
Inability to focus on tasks, easy distraction, forgetfulness in daily activitiesDifficulty sustaining attention in classes and while studyingIncreased anxiety and stress, especially during exams or deadlines
Procrastination, disorganization, difficulty prioritizing tasksStruggling with organizational skills and time managementFeelings of frustration or low self-esteem due to academic struggles
Acting without thinking, impatience, difficulty in delaying gratificationImpulsive behavior leading to incomplete or rushed assignmentsSocial challenges, including difficulty in group work or classroom interactions
Difficulty in maintaining motivation and effort over extended periodsChallenges in following through with long-term projects or tasksHigher risk of mood disorders, such as depression
Trouble concentrating during lectures or exams, mind wanderingPoorer performance on tests due to issues with focus and concentrationPotential for substance abuse as a coping mechanism for stress or social anxiety

The transition from consistently high grades to a semester of failing marks was rapid. The student who previously aimed for excellence, found themselves in a situation where motivation and academic performance were both declining.

“I’ve had a 4.0 till the end of sophomore year and my last semester I had 4 Cs and now all are a failing grade. I got into a bad spiral where now I don’t even have the motivation to study and I usually have this perfect mindset where if I’m getting an A+ in everything imma aim for an A+ and settle for nothing less but now I got no motivation to study anymore.”

Lifestyle changes accompanied this academic downturn. The student, who used to enjoy a vibrant social life, began to spend more time alone, often drinking. This shift not only affected their studies but also their mental and emotional state.

This account illustrates how college students can be impacted by internal and external factors. Balancing high academic expectations, managing ADHD symptoms, and dealing with social changes can create a challenging environment for any student. The student’s sincere confession found a response among many like-minded people, who shared their experiences and revealed some strategies for overcoming such difficulties.

Shared Struggles and Empathy from Peers

The plight of the mechanical engineering student struggling with ADHD and academic challenges is not an isolated case, as evidenced by the reactions from fellow students on Reddit. Their experiences and comments reveal a broader pattern of difficulties faced by many in the college environment, highlighting common problems and their potential causes.

The rigorous coursework in fields like engineering can be particularly taxing, aggravating underlying issues like ADHD or anxiety when balancing a demanding major with personal mental health challenges becomes especially difficult. 

A fellow mechanical engineering student agreed with the original post, saying, 

“I’m in a very similar situation. Mech. E. is hard, and mental health issues really screwed me over.”

The hardships these students face often stem from a combination of high academic expectations and personal mental health struggles. The challenge of maintaining focus in lectures, managing a heavy workload, and the pressure to achieve high grades are common themes in these students’ experiences. ADHD, as mentioned in the original post, compounds these challenges, making traditional methods of teaching and learning less effective.

Furthermore, these struggles are not limited to academic performance. They often spill over into other aspects of students’ lives, affecting their social interactions, personal habits, and overall mental well-being. The shift from vibrant social life to isolation, as described by the original poster, is a testament to how academic pressures and personal struggles can lead to significant lifestyle changes.

The comments from peers on Reddit serve to highlight the shared nature of these problems among students. They represent a larger issue in the college environment, where high-stress academics and personal mental health issues collide, creating a challenging scenario for many. 

Student Experiences in Balancing Academics and Mental Health

Recognizing the problem is already half the battle. The participants in the Reddit conversation appear to thoroughly believe this statement and are eager to share their secrets that have benefited them and may aid the author of the post.

All kinds of circumstances often lead students to adapt their learning approaches and seek support in various forms. One common strategy, as mentioned by a peer, involves taking a semester off: 

“Сonsider taking a semester break and then come back.” 

This break provides an essential pause for students to refocus and take care of their mental health, crucial for their eventual return to academic life.

Another approach is the adoption of alternative learning methods, such as asynchronous online classes. This method can be particularly beneficial for those who struggle with traditional classroom settings due to mental health issues like ADHD or anxiety. A student shares their experience:

“What worked for me was switching my classes to being asynchronous online.” 

In addition to these strategies, support from institutional disability services is highlighted as vital. These services can offer academic accommodations, such as extended test times and priority registration, which can be a lifeline for students facing unique challenges.

Furthermore, some students emphasize the importance of reevaluating personal habits and social interactions. Changes in social behavior, such as withdrawing from friends or engaging in solitary drinking, can be both a symptom and a cause of deeper academic and emotional struggles. Recognizing and addressing these changes is an essential step in balancing academic success and personal happiness.

Collectively, these personal experiences and insights advocate for a holistic approach to education, recognizing the importance of mental well-being, adaptive learning strategies, and supportive resources in achieving academic and personal success.


In essence, the college experience is about personal growth and discovery as much as it is about academic performance. The ups and downs along the route are essential to this adventure. Students can get through their college years with a sense of optimism and empowerment, ready to embrace the possibilities and conquer the obstacles that lie ahead, by building a culture of support and understanding and acknowledging the universality of these experiences.


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