Managing a Chronic Condition in College

Managing a Chronic Condition in College

College students with chronic health problems face some unique challenges. Our tips can help you manage your condition while living away from home.

Going away to college for the first time can be both exciting and overwhelming. You have so much to absorb – living away from home, meeting new people, making decisions for yourself, and juggling study and social time. All this is even more challenging if you have a chronic health condition. But you can do it successfully. The key is to plan and prepare.

8 things to do

There are some things to do that will help make life at college easier.

  1. Check your health insurance coverage. Talk to your parents or call the insurance company yourself. Find out:
    • How long does your policy last? Do you have coverage up to a certain age or as long as you are a full-time student?
    • Does it cover emergency services and checkups out of state?
    If you need new coverage, call your college admissions office to find out how to get a student insurance policy for the years you’ll be there.

  2. See your health care providers at home.
    • Get copies of your medical records.
    • Talk about your concerns and symptoms.
    • Make a plan for what to do if you have symptoms while you’re at school.
    • Schedule appointments for follow-up visits during school vacations.
    • If you’ll need a local health care provider at college, ask your doctor for a referral.

  3. Fill your prescriptions. Get them with enough refills to last until your next doctor visit.

  4. Make arrangements. If you need special housing arrangements, talk to your school’s Office for Students with Disabilities.

  5. Get information about the health services your college offers, including:
    • When the health center is open
    • What services it provides
    • Who to talk to about your health needs
    • Whether there is anyone at the health center with expertise in your condition
    • The location of the nearest hospital in case of an emergency

  6. Give your college health center and any new health care providers:
    • A list of all your health care providers with their phone and fax numbers and street and e-mail addresses
    • A copy of your medical records
    • A list of medications you are taking and any side effects or allergic reactions to medications you’ve had in the past

  7. Find out what services your college offers in case you have a flare-up during the semester. Look in your college catalog or website under “disability services.” These may include:
    • Help with note taking
    • Extensions on tests and papers
    • Food service help for dietary needs
    • Special housing and transportation

  8. Take good care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep. Work with your advisor to create a balanced and manageable course load.

To make the most of your college experience, it’s important to create a supportive environment. In addition to medical experts, you may want to tell close friends and professors about your condition. If you live in a dorm, you may also want your Resident Assistant to know. How much you choose to share is up to you. Having people to talk to who understand your situation can be very helpful physically, academically, and emotionally.

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