Today’s GUEST POST is by Melissa Woodson.
Chronic illness is an important issue for more college students than most people realize. For those preparing for higher education, health problems shouldn’t stop you from achieving your goals. Preparation, planning and education are essential tools in your college success.
Unpredictable waxing and waning symptoms can mean that you face challenges in accomplishing your coursework. Some examples of what you might want to prepare for are:
- What to do if you need extended time for assignments?
- How can you get a different test date or time?
- What can you do if you’re having difficulty attending class?
Knowing the resources that are available to help manage challenges like these is crucial. Maybe these don’t seem like challenges you’ll have. But anyone with a chronic health problem knows that it’s impossible to predict how the illness will behave. It’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in place for when things don’t go as planned.
When you choose a school, keep in mind the basics that anyone would consider, including size, location, programs. But you should also ensure that the school of your choice offers access to the medical care you need.
Just as a crew rower would never choose a landlocked school, students with a chronic illness should not choose schools without solid health programs and assistance in place. In some cases, it may be wise to choose a school within driving distance of your home and regular medical providers. This doesn’t mean you can’t live on campus if you choose, but it provides security if something comes unexpected comes up, and it doesn’t leave you hours from home in an unfamiliar health care system.
Many larger colleges and universities offer programs to help students with chronic illness. Some of these programs include:
University Health Services
Every school has its own student health services. Most treat sudden conditions, but some clinicians in these areas will also manage chronic illness. It’s important to call or visit the health services center of any school you are considering and talk with the doctors or providers on staff to find out if they are comfortable managing your case. You should also find a specialist for your condition in the area that can help if needed. Many educational facilities are affiliated with large medical centers located on or near campus, so you may also want to speak with someone there.
Even if you have not applied for disability, many schools have an office that provides services and special accommodations for students with chronic illness. The office for the Dean of Students may also be able to provide you with information about special housing, transportation or classroom adjustments and guide you through the application process. This will also help you in case you have a medical incident during the semester. The disability center can help advocate for you if you have to miss class for an extended period or need additional time for assignments. They can even help you to get transportation or special seating as needed.
Counseling and Psychological Services
Not all chronic illnesses are physical. If you suffer from a mental health issue that requires regular monitoring, make sure you find a reliable therapist or psychiatrist at the school you are considering. Make an appointment to go in and make sure you are a good fit for each other before enrolling.
Planning for college can seem intimidating when you try to manage a chronic health condition. Don’t be afraid to reach out, ask questions and set up a solid support system to help you succeed. Then apply yourself and enjoy your time as a college student! If you set yourself up to manage your illness now, you’ll avoid some of the stress involved if you go through a particularly rough patch. Consider the long term benefits, too. Knowing how to advocate for yourself and navigate the services available to help you manage your illness will prepare you for long term success when you
Melissa Woodson is the community manager for @WashULaw, one of the premier LLM programs offered through Washington University in St. Louis that allows foreign attorneys to earn their llm degree online. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.