7 Tips and Tricks for Getting Through College With a Chronic Illnesses


As I lay in my bed on a cozy Sunday evening, despite the relaxed energy surrounding my loft apartment, my mind couldn’t help but wander to the upcoming week and my list of things to do. That’s pretty reasonable though, right? I mean, who doesn’t think about all their responsibilities and obligations as a new week approaches? Tonight I am preparing for my first week of spring semester graduate school. My mind feels totally scattered as I am thinking about what I will need, when my syllabus will be posted online, what kind of notebooks or binders I should use, and heck, what classes am I even taking? I hope I am prepared and show up to the right room!

Take a second and breathe.

“You’ve got this,” is what I keep telling myself.

I wracked my brain thinking of all I need to do for class tomorrow so that I am able to be physically OK for class. If you have a chronic illness, you know it’s just not as simple as showing up to class. There are several steps that one must take to be able to be successful in school.

Whether you are in high school, college undergrad, grad school, or getting your doctorate – if you have a chronic illness, you need to make sure you are taking good care of you and doing everything in your power to help yourself physically, mentally, and academically. By doing this, I guarantee it will be much easier to thrive and prosper in school.

I decided that I would share some of my major tips that helped me get through my first semester of grad school, and doing so while receiving good grades. My tips are geared towards students who are attending college, but some of these can be applied to high school, too!

Tips to getting through college with a chronic illness:

1. Talk to your professors. I cannot stress this enough. It is so important to have open communication with your professors about your disability. Now, I do not mean that you have to go into details and reveal what your disability is, but you do need to let them know that you have an illness/disability that may result in missing class some days, not always being able to meet original class deadlines, etc. Most professors I have found to be very understanding and willing to make accommodations for you…which brings me to my next point!

2. Utilize available resources for students with disabilities. This has literally been a life saver for me. Without accessibility resources at my university, I would probably not have been able to return to school when I did. Often times, schools will have programs for students with chronic illness or disabilities where students can receive a list of accommodations for whatever they are struggling with. This list is given to the professors and can help the professor better understand exactly what they need to do in order to assist the student in need. Some examples of accommodations could be taking tests in a certain room or the ability to have extensions on assignments.

3. Get a disabled parking pass. This is necessary at my school. I go to a large university that has a widespread campus, and consequently, very little parking available. I would not be able to sit through class if I had to park on the opposite side of campus, then walk all that way to my building. As someone who cannot stand for long periods of time, it is only fitting to have a disabled parking pass to help me get safely and securely to my lecture. So, if you are that person with low blood volume or a racing heart and dizziness upon standing, a parking pass could really work in your favor.

4. Wear compression stockings and always carry a water bottle. This has definitely helped me on longer days. Again, if you have low blood volume or blood pressure, compression stockings help keep the blood from pooling at your feet and in turn, help keep you more awake and alert in class. A water bottle is also key for long lectures!

5. Take a couple of online courses! Before I was able to actually attend a lecture in person, I took some online courses to ease myself into it and to work my brain, even though my body couldn’t physically handle going in to school. If you are in that position, I suggest trying a couple of online courses. They were great for me at the time and helped me to feel like I was still busy while being practically housebound.

6. Go part-time if you need to. I do not go to school full-time because I know that would be way too difficult for me right now. My health would suffer, mentally and physically. So I am taking it slow and going to school part-time. At first I was kind of embarrassed to only go part-time and not have a full-time job, but then I realized there is no need to be ashamed! Everyone is doing their own thing and we all have to ultimately do what is best for us. Don’t worry about what other people think! It’s definitely not worth our time and energy.

7. Give yourself a darn break. It’s fantastic that you are even going to school while sick and suffering with one or more chronic illness. Going to school is a huge accomplishment, and you should be proud of yourself for trying and making it to where you are. If you have to use an accommodation, use it. If you really don’t feel up to going to class, don’t go and email your professor. Don’t wear yourself too thin, because your health could be on the line. And that is first and for most your number one priority.

And that concludes my tips and tricks for going to college while being sick. I hope these help you and make you feel a bit more confident in tackling the semester.

Happy studying!

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Thinkstock Image By: KatarzynaBialasiewicz

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