Going to college can be difficult on its own, whether it’s adjusting to a new campus, classes, meeting others etc. Combined with the stressors and challenges presented when faced with a pandemic and chronic medical conditions however, this can make the college experience especially daunting.

Below are the stories from two college students, Sydney and Anna, who have chronic medical conditions. In the videos, they describe how they balance every day life, and give advice to students with chronic medical conditions who might not know where to begin when first starting college.

Sydney’s Story

Anna’s Story

Have any questions about managing your health in college? Look no further!

What should I do in order to receive assistance from the college I am attending?

Almost every, if not all, colleges in the United States has a Disability Resource Center (DRC). They can help by providing testing accommodations, rooming accommodations etc. They are a great resource to turn to if you have any questions or difficulties.

How do I prioritize my health while still keeping up with work?

Take at least an hour (or more) a day to not focus on your work. If you are able to, going for a walk, exercising, reading the newspaper etc. can truly help keep you in a good place. Also, practicing mindfulness can be rewarding.

What happens when I have a bad health day? I’m worried I’ll fall behind!

If you find that you are have difficulties with your health short-term, contact your professors if you are comfortable doing so. Most of the time, they will be very accommodating and change deadlines. If you are having longer-term difficulties, notifying the DRC is also beneficial.

How can I feel prepared regarding my health before leaving for college?

Visit your doctors and specialists before going away to college to come up with a plan for treatments, medications etc., and plan regular trips for check-ins.

I’m interested in making friends outside of my classes — where do I start?

A lot of colleges have clubs or societies that focus on specific interests or hobbies you might have. You could have the most niche interest, and there will almost definitely be a club for it at your school. Joining clubs, a sport, or Greek life are all great ways to meet people!

What can I do if my professor does not accept my mental/ physical illness as a legitimate excuse?

Fight for yourself! You deserve to be treated appropriately and you have to make your presence known so they can try to accommodate!

What are some important skills needed for college?

Self-advocacy and determination is incredibly important, as well as being mindful of your study habits, learning skills crucial to living on your own, and creating a maintainable schedule.

Four years in college is feeling a bit overwhelming. Is it possible to extend my time in undergrad?

Yes! Many colleges offer 5 or 6 year programs, and it’s always possible to start at a community college and transfer to another 4-year college.

I can’t always be in the classroom. Are there out of classroom learning options?

Yes! Especially now during the pandemic, there are many online options available for students to utilize in a flexible manner.

I’m really nervous for college- is there any way I can start with a reduced course load?

Absolutely— and it is in fact encouraged to start slow, especially as you transition from high school.

What happens if I do poorly on a test or fail something?

It’s definitely not the end of the world. We all have classes we aren’t the best at, or days where we don’t do our best. Our failures don’t define us!

How do I let people know about my health in social situations?

Disclose whatever you feel comfortable sharing- most people are very understanding and accommodating. If you are having a particularly symptomatic day, it doesn’t hurt to let someone you trust know ahead of time, in case you want to leave an event early.

More Resources:



28 Hacks That Can Make Going to College With a Chronic Illness Easier

Written By: Anna Geiger