Preparing for College with Chronic Illness

Having a chronic illness is a difficult way to navigate through life

Having a chronic illness is a difficult way to navigate through life. One often goes to sleep in the evening not knowing what the next day may bring… will it be a good day, medium day, or not so good day. Migraineurs live like this, as well as others who have lived with chronic pain, and other illnesses. Adolescents who suffer through a variety of illnesses from mental health issues to physical issues have to wrestle with the fact that they have been somewhat left out of a piece of life. Sometimes, and often more times than not, they cannot participate in various activities, whether it is sitting out of sports, parties, or being on a specific diet differing from their peers in order to ward off some sort of attack that would be a setback in life. Students suffering from Crohns, MS, cystic fibrosis, Lyme disease, migraine, perhaps cancer in remission, mental health issues all need to look at their university path in much the same way as others, but yet, in a different light. There is another hurdle to jump through. 

Not only do these students have to look for a school that will suit their personality, academic likes, but, they need to find a university that will accommodate their chronic illness. Teen Vogue has some excellent ideas about Chronic illness and how to navigate the college:

What I want to point out is that students with chronic illness often come to university with a 504 Plan from their high school. While this 504 Plan may not transfer readily to college, students do have rights according to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Note, they may not be able to have all accommodations granted from high school, there may be some accommodations that colleges will allow. For example, some schools will allow single dorm rooms based on their issue. I know one school allowed a student a car to get from one class to another, as well as specific doctor’s appointments based on her chronic issue when cars were not allowed on campus. What matters is that students are all on the ‘same footing’, so to speak. 

What students need to know is the process for gaining these accommodations. Generally speaking, students do not have to disclose their illness in their application. And, this is not where accommodations are made anyway. That is a false belief. As a matter of fact, admissions do not necessarily need to know about the chronic illness. If there is a circumstance that the school needs to know (a drop in grades due to the illness rearing its ugly head, then often, it may be best to include that in the Additional Information section).  Once the acceptance has been made, and the student accepts the university offer, then, the student should contact disability services office at the school and start making the arrangements necessary for any accommodation needed and understand the process necessary and certainly not wait until the last minute. 

Here is a sample from University of Colorado in Boulder:

Each school may have different policies, but keep in mind, it is up to the student to contact the Disability Services Office at the university and follow their procedure. Depending on the university, size and type of university, services will vary. In other words, do your homework, in addition to the ‘fit’ academically, socially, geographically and all the rest, there has to be an accommodating fit as well for those with chronic illness. 

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