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12 Tips for Making College the Best Years of Life With Chronic Illness

Being chronically ill is hard for anyone and being in college is hard for anyone, so imagine being chronically ill while in college. The best four years of your life can be the hardest, but here are some tips I’ve learned in my first two years in college.

1. Talk to your school’s disability office. 

They will be the ones to make your accommodations possible. I recommend having your doctor write a letter stating what your disability is and any other information you think may be necessary such as symptoms, treatments, etc. Talk about any accommodations you had in high school so your college is able to get a better understanding of what you need.

2. Find a pharmacy close to you.

The last thing you want is to run out of critical medicines when you are a few hours away from home. I found my closest pharmacy to easily access my prescriptions and let my doctors know which pharmacy it is.

3. Talk to all of your professors about your disability and give them your accommodation forms.

I always find it better to speak with my professors during the first week of classes so they can start to understand my needs. The longer I wait, the less helpful they tend to be. I feel the more information you give them, the better. You can even give them handouts about what your disability is so they can become familiar with it.

4. Keep the health center is informed.

You will likely have to complete paperwork before you begin college about any medical problems you have, medications, etc. After submitting the paperwork, if something new occurs, I suggest letting them know so they can put it in your file for future use. 

5. Always carry important cards.

I always carry my insurance card, ID and a medical card that gives my medical information and emergency contacts.

6. Keep in contact with your parents or caretakers.

They worried about you while you were home and they may worry even more when you are away at college and not under their care. My advice is to call them often.

7. Inform your friends and roommates about your health.

I have had to ask my roommate to take me to the hospital on a couple of occasions. We have been friends since kindergarten so she already knew about what I had. She even drove me all the way home in the middle of the week at 10 p.m. when I had appendicitis and I had to go to a doctor and hospital closer to home and doctors. Thanks roomie!

8. If you have a car, bring it.

Some schools do not allow freshman to have cars on campus. I was able to get special permission to have my car on campus during my freshman year so I could easily get home for medical appointments and get to physical therapy. They even gave me an accessible parking permit to use on campus so I could park close to my classes if I was having a really high flare that day.

9. Let the school know if a professor refuses to accommodate you.

I had to miss almost two weeks of classes when I had my appendectomy and when I came back, one professor refused to help me whatsoever. I was able to inform the school and they were then able to get me what I needed from the professor.

10. Keep in contact with your doctors.

They will be the best source of information when it comes to your health. They should be able to refill prescriptions or tell you what to do. Don’t just assume that since you’re now away at college, they won’t treat you unless you come home. They may be willing to work with the

11. Inform your professor as early as possible if you will need to miss a class.

Most professors will allow you to make up the quiz or exam. I suggest bringing back a doctor’s note. In the event of an emergency, such as an emergency room visit, contact them as soon as possible. When I had to go the emergency room a few times, I emailed my professors to let them know what was going on. In fact, last semester, I had to take my finals early so I could be admitted to the hospital for treatment and I had no problems because I let my professors know ahead of time and had my doctor write a note.

12. Have fun!

Don’t forget, these are supposed to be the best years of your life so I always try to have some fun. Whether it’s going to a football game or just watching movies with your friends in your apartment, I think you can make this experience how you want it to be.

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