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5 Ways Chronically Ill College Students Can Balance Their Health and Education


I sit here writing this with tears streaming down my face because:

1. I’ve gotten my second bladder infection in three weeks.

2. I didn’t go to school today, I didn’t go to all my classes yesterday, or any of my classes on Monday.

I always seem to get sick at the worst times, but truth is, for me as a college student – it’s never a good time. I begin to get angry with myself, realizing that I missed something important in class or slept though my alarm. Fully knowing that none of these things are in my control, but I still beat myself up over it.

With that, here is a helpful list that I’ve put together for myself as I am a college student living with a chronic illness:

1. Email your professors.

Just let your professor know that you can’t make it to class and see if you can do any of the work from home or the hospital. Even if you can’t do the work, it’s good to have track of what you’re missing. That way, when you go back, you can jump back in.

2. Ask for extensions.

I cannot tell you how many extensions I’ve gotten. If teachers know that you are struggling with your heath, sometimes they give them out like they are candy. 

3. Do as much as you can, and when you have to stop, recognize that.

Do as much as you can without pushing so far that it’s just going to make you feel sicker. Recognize that your pain is really bad and when you come back from a nap that paper will still be there. If your pain has you laid up on the couch and it isn’t letting you go to class, try to do as much as you can at home.

4. Most colleges have disability/accessibility centers.

I have a file in my school’s accessibility center. I personally use it for test extensions. But if you had an IEP or a 504 in high school, the center can write up accommodations for your classes.

5. Don’t be mad at your body or yourself.

I struggle with this one a lot. You can’t control any of this, it’s not like you skipped class to go on a trip and missed the final. None of this is your fault, and it’s important to remember that as the work piles up and you haven’t been to class in a few days.

I alway struggle playing the “sick card.” Being born with my illness, I have had to use accommodations in every stage of my schooling. Not everyone is understanding of your illness or why you need accommodations. Don’t take advantage of the accommodations unless you need them. Go to class if you can.

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