Embarking on the college journey is a huge accomplishment, but it’s also a time of significant transition. From new independence, and responsibilities, to the excitement of the college campus, there’s truly so much for new students to discover during the four years of university study. With work, school, and social life to balance, it takes a lot of commitment and diligence to thrive in college. Living with a chronic health condition can make it an extra challenge to keep up with the chaos of college. With support from the community, and with preparation, it’s more than possible to thrive in college alongside an illness. Taking the time to learn about the resources and strategies available to chronically ill and disabled students can make the transition smoother. We’ve outlined a few tactics for students to keep in mind as they embark on this major milestone.
1. Visit Your Doctor and Establish a Plan
It’s important to establish communication with your doctor and care team early on, ideally before the semester begins. If you’re moving to a new city, or region, it’s important to establish a transition plan. Your doctor’s office may be able to help you find a new doctor, and even coordinate care when you’re back home. Even if you’re staying in the same city, college comes with increased stressors, and health considerations. Ensuring that your condition is in remission, and that your medications are accessible when the semester starts will make the beginning of your college experience easier. Plus, in the event that something unexpected happens, you’ll be prepared with your care team standing by.
2. Consult Your Professors
The college workload is a lot to manage without a chronic illness, which is why it’s essential to establish a relationship with your professors early on. As the semester progresses, it’ll become more and more challenging to stay ahead of any unexpected setbacks, or obstacles so getting a headstart can be a gamechanger. Letting your professors know about any accommodations you need, or any roadblocks you might hit will establish a strong working relationship between you and your professors. A good professor should work with you to help you access the resources you need to succeed. A positive academic support system will make your college experience better, and decrease stressors that could send you into a flare.
3. Register With The Office of Disability Services
Connecting with your university’s Office of Disability Services is an important action to take during your college transition. You may even considering locating the office prior to arriving on campus. At most universities, the Office of Disability Services serves as a representative for disabled students in the university system. They’ll work with you to help you access and obtain important accommodations, including a note-taker, consideration and forgiveness for absences, extended test time, and more. Plus, they’ll coordinate with your professors each semester to ensure they’re aware of your needs, and even appeal decision on your behalf in the event that you are being treated unfairly. With their support, you’ll be able to ensure that you have an accessible college experience.
4. Explore Your Surroundings
It’s a good idea to get familiar with your college campus, and the surrounding city especially if you’re new to the area. Knowing where essential services like pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and hospitals can make it easier to access health resources in times of need. Plus, exploring your campus and the city can be a great way to discover favorite spots to study and to relax. Plus, getting out into the community can combat feelings of homesickness and help you make new friends. If you receive infusions, it’s also a good idea to locate nearby infusion clinics so that can you figure out how they’ll fit into your college routine and schedule. It’s also a good idea to determine the routes to your classes, and to campus hotspots.
5. Find Support
The chronic illness experience can be incredibly lonely and painful. Thankfully, there’s an increasing number of organizations, support groups, and individuals themselves that are working tirelessly to provide patients with the support that they deserve. Finding other students who are living with chronic illness can be validating and informative. Together, you can share tips on navigating the college experience with an illness, and find solidarity in support. Having others around who “get it” is a huge source of support, and can make the transition to college less overwhelming.
For more information and support on navigating the chronic illness journey across all stages of life, keep connecting with the Infusion Access Foundation or try our helpful infusion locator tool.