ADHD in College

Bored at College! Should I Change My Major Again?

An ADHD expert and a college student with ADHD team up to answer questions from late teens and young adults about making it in a non-ADHD world.

Student with ADHD reading in library preparing to apply for scholarships
Student with ADHD reading in library preparing to apply for scholarships

I am a 20-year-old girl, and I’m on my third major in a small college. I usually like what I’m doing for a few months and then it gets technical and boring. Then I see something else I want to do and change up. My parents have about had it with me. Do you think I should take some time off from school, or should I just buckle down and finish the major I’m in (accounting)?

Dr. Wes: There’s nothing wrong with a little restlessness, particularly at your age. Life wouldn’t be as interesting if we didn’t try new things or test out new ideas. There’s never a better time than your early 20s to do that. However, at its core, ADHD creates a yearning for novelty that’s not practical in daily life. So no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you’ll usually want to be wherever you’re not, doing whatever you’re not doing. As you point out, that can rain on just about any achievement parade, not to mention driving your parents over the edge.

People with ADHD have a tough time dealing with stuff that’s not interesting, which is troublesome because most stuff isn’t. It’s not that people without ADHD don’t get bored. It’s just that we put up with boring stuff because we have to and because we can.

For you, boredom seems like the death of a thousand cuts, causing you to hit the door in search of something new. So, as you’re considering a career, think about what might hold new twists and turns. If you were in the medical field, I’d suggest working in the emergency room or the obstetrics ward. Every day is different. Accounting actually isn’t a bad idea, because it involved constantly looking for a solution. Some accountants get to travel a lot, which can be fun for people with ADHD.

Unfortunately, the secret of finishing anything isn’t much of secret: persistence and patience. Once you’re on a right path — and Heather has some good ideas for finding one — you have to do it to end up anywhere. Spend some time with a mentor determining which career best fits your strengths and doing what it takes to finish. That’s never going to be fun. But if you find the right career and do what it takes every day to finish, you’ll have more freedom to pursue other interests. Until you can lock on a career choice, you might be better off taking off a year or two. Half a degree is no degree at all.

Heather: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Those are true words from John Lennon and his song Imagine. Those of us with ADHD so often want to do something different with our lives that we find ourselves making those changes constantly, never settling down with one life story. I’ve often told my friends that if I could have it my way, I would live three different lives — but if I’m being honest, I would live a hundred.

Like you, I’ve changed my mind multiple times in college about what I want to do. This is usually how the pattern goes: I get excited about a path I’ve chosen, the idea starts to get old after a while, the excitement starts to fade, and suddenly I’m looking for a new path so I can feel that excitement again. It’s a hard habit to break, but that’s what it takes.

I don’t suggest “buckling down” and settling on the path you’ve recently chosen for your life, but you do need to make a hard decision. Just because you’re interested in something doesn’t mean you will be good at it or be able to spend 20 years doing it. While your interest in college majors may change, the core things you want out of life, and the characteristics you possess, don’t. So take time to evaluate what it is you want, what you’re good at, and who you are.

I wanted to be a surgeon when I started college, but after some evaluation, I realized that I want more out of life than a career. I want to be a mother, a wife, and a friend. I couldn’t do all that and hold down such a demanding job.

We are all dreamers, but if you dream intentionally, your dreams won’t keep changing.