5 Tips for Managing a Chronic Illness During Your First Year at College

Going or returning to college in the middle of a global pandemic with a chronic condition can feel a little overwhelming. Fortunately, there are ways for any college student to take control of their medications, treatments, and academic experience while struggling with a chronic condition. If you or your child are worried about how to cope away at college with a chronic condition, here are some things you can do to give yourself peace of mind.


1. Make a treatment plan ahead of time.

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One of the best things you can do to manage a chronic condition while away at school is to make a plan with your regular doctor ahead of time. Perhaps you have a cancer diagnosis and get regular infusion therapy treatments. In talking with your doctor ahead of time, you can make a plan to get the infusions you need close to school. Not only will having a plan make things more convenient, but you’ll be able to go to school with the peace of mind that your doctor back home knows what’s going on.

2. Communicate with college staff and counselors.

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During the admission process, it’s a good idea to find a college counselor you can speak with about your specific health condition. In being honest and open with your admission counselor about your concerns, you’ll be in the position to learn about options your college may have. For example, many colleges have special exceptions and programs for students who struggle with chronic illness. Instead of hiding your medical condition, being transparent about your needs will help college staff support you.

3. Bring prescription medications.

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Leaving for school with a reserve of your prescription medications is a great way to be sure you have what you need as you get your bearings in your new community. Ask your primary care doctor for a 90-day prescription before leaving for college. As you look for a good fit with a doctor near your school, you’ll be able to transition your treatment and prescription to them or continue to fill your medications through your regular healthcare provider.

4. Tell roommates about side effects and symptoms.

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Being honest with roommates and friends will be a good way to prevent a scary situation. For example, if you have severe asthma, filling your roommates in about what to do if you have an asthma attack is a good way to be sure they can help in the event of an emergency. Do what you can to let the people you live and study with understand your medical condition and you’ll be in a safer situation.

5. Stay in touch with your primary provider.

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Be sure to stay in contact with your primary provider, even if you decide to see another doctor while away at school, no matter how common your condition is. Incorporating both healthcare providers into your care team is a great way to keep everyone up to date and your treatments moving smoothly. If you have an appointment with one doctor, be sure your medical records are shared with another. This will help both doctors work together to give you the best care possible. When in doubt, call any and all providers to be sure you’re making the best decisions for your health.

At the end of the day, having a chronic condition doesn’t have to limit your college experience. In making your health a top priority the same way you will your studies, you’ll be in a great position to live your best life while having the full college experience. Best of luck to you in the school year ahead. Don’t forget to add your medications to that last-minute packing for college list!

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