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student who wrote personal essay about adhd diagnoses
student who wrote personal essay about adhd diagnoses
Courtesy of Karly Ramnani
Life > Academics

Students Are Getting Fake ADHD Diagnoses To Do Better In School & TBH, I’m Pissed

I was in eighth grade at the height of the fidget spinner craze, and I was obsessed. My parents never let me have one, but I got a thrill playing with my friends’ during class. I found that doing something with my hands made it easier to focus and process the material I was learning. It didn’t occur to me until several years later that this could be because I had ADHD

Growing up, my family hesitated to have open discussions about neurodivergence and mental health. When I was 13, a therapist identified that I struggled with depression and anxiety, and challenged me to not bottle up my feelings. But my mom wasn’t on board with that. I was raised with a strong “fake it till you make it” mentality, and learned to suppress negative emotions around other people. This continued throughout my teenage years as I faced a range of experiences with my mental health.

Fast-forward to my second year of college, my therapist suggested I might have ADHD and recommended I get tested. However, when I brought this up to my mom, she once again met me with pushback, saying if I truly had ADHD, it would’ve been detected during early childhood. My mom’s words hurt my feelings — but more importantly, they were inherently false. According to the NIH, 75% of adults with ADHD were unable to get diagnosed during childhood. Further, per WebMD, more than 80% of adults with ADHD are unaware that they have it. With these odds, I realized I was probably among the many adults who were struggling with undiagnosed ADHD every day.

With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when I heard some students are getting fake ADHD diagnoses to get extra time on their SATs — according to an article published by the New York Post on March 27 — I was instantly enraged. According to the CDC, ADHD accommodations in school can include modified instruction and assignments, access to recorded lectures and extra learning resources, increased time on tests, and more frequent breaks, among others. I resented these kids and their parents for cheating to get a leg up, when these accommodations exist to help foster an even playing field for people like me who need them. And TBH, I hated feeling unsupported by my own family while these other parents veered so hard in the opposite direction — going even so far as to lie — for their kids.

As someone who experiences burnout, gets easily distracted, and sometimes struggles to process information, I feel like I have to work 10 times harder than my neurotypical peers to achieve the same goals. I truly believe that if I was allowed extra time on certain assignments or given access to take tests in an isolated setting — accommodations an official ADHD diagnosis could afford me — my grades would improve and reflect my full potential. I think I would also feel less day-to-day stress about my academic performance, which would greatly improve my overall mental health. 

But while I strongly feel that not having an official diagnosis has done me a disservice, I also have come to realize that the parents who are getting their kids fake diagnoses are doing them a disservice, too. Not only are they encouraging their children to cheat rather than work hard, but furthermore, they’re demonstrating a lack of empathy for neurodivergent students. New generations are being taught that it’s OK to capitalize on — and potentially take away, due to limited resources — opportunities meant for those who really need them.  

At this point in my life, I don’t have the familial support to pursue a formal ADHD diagnosis, nor do I have the money to do it on my own. But as I get closer to graduating from college and being independent, I’m looking forward to getting diagnosed the second I’m able to. And even though I’ve had to miss out on the accommodations benefitting so many other students (whether they deserve them or not), I’m excited to see how a genuine diagnosis could help me thrive in my professional life going forward.

Karly Ramnani is a junior at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, studying music industry, with a strong passion for art and journalism. They discovered this amazing community shortly after starting college, and are super stoked to a national writer for Her Campus this semester. Karly worked with Her Campus in Fall 2022 as well, as the Entertainment & Culture Editorial Intern. Other outlets they've written for include All Country News, The Honey Pop, Medium, Newsbreak, and their own startup music blog Playlists & Polaroids. They currently serve as a campus ambassador for Amazon Prime Student and Tinder. When they're not writing blogposts and music reviews, you can find them composing and performing music, putting their nose in a rom-com book, binge watching "The Summer I Turned Pretty," or crying over Taylor Swift.