How to Choose the Right College When You Have a Chronic Illness
If you’re one of the 40 million Americans in the United States who live with a chronic condition, you’re used to making hard choices about doctors, medications, and other issues related to your care. Choosing the right college to attend is just as important: The type of school you select (as well as your chosen housing accommodations and classes) will have an enormous effect on your health. Here are five things you might want to consider.
Campus size. Having a chronic condition tends to make everything harder—and even simple activities, like walking short distances, can become challenging. In order to gauge if a college is a good fit, consider how much walking you’d need to do during an average day. If walking is difficult, make sure your dorm room and classes are close to each other and that they have accessible entrances and exits. If classes are spread out, see if the college provides bussing or shuttle accommodations.
Living arrangements. Some colleges don’t allow students to live off-campus for the first few years. But living away from home may not be feasible for students with severe illnesses or ones that flare up unexpectedly. Students should make sure that any potential college doesn’t have restrictions in regard to living off campus. If restrictions exist, contact the university’s housing department to see if they can make an exemption.
Special accommodations. Have to miss class? Need an extension on an important assignment? Some professors are fine with cutting you some slack, while others might dock your grade. Ask around (or better yet, ask the professor directly) about policies for absences or late work in the case of an unexpected illness or flare-up.
Available classes. Chronic health issues can make it difficult to get to the classroom multiple times a week, so the opportunity to take classes online is an important one. Today, there are more than 300 accredited online universities in the United States. But despite the convenience of taking classes online, there are benefits to attending class in person like making friends and discussing the course material in real time. If attending class on campus is important to you, try to find classes that also have some components of the course online, like online test-taking and homework, or virtual study groups.
Health services. Colleges typically have a health-services center on campus, but don’t assume it has what you need. It’s also important to find out what clinic services are covered under your health insurance plan and whether your school offers supplementary insurance.