My Decision to Go to College with a Chronic Illness

My Personal Experience

I saw college as a necessity for me as a kid. I enjoyed learning, and my educated parents’ experience with college encouraged me. It wasn’t until later I found out about the other paths I can take and how people have found success in not attending college. Everything changed with my diagnosis. If I was unable to attend high school, how will I attend college? That caused me to hesitate in my decision. However, a college schedule is ideal for my health. It takes A LOT of energy to leave my house, and when I go out, I will do EVERYTHING at once. My chronic illnesses cause adrenaline rushes, so I thrive at doing everything thing in one sitting rather than spreading it out. I’d instead attend a 3-hour class twice a week, rather than a 40-minute class every day.

I know that while a college schedule may be accommodating for my chronic illnesses, it doesn’t mean it is the same for everybody. Deciding whether to pursue higher education is a personal decision that you must make based on what is best for you and your body. Here are some questions to consider when considering whether to go to college or what college to attend:

Does my future career plans warrant a college degree?

This also pertains to healthy people. But with a chronic illness, your energy is limited and must be managed based on priority. Many go to college for the “college experience.” But with a chronic illness, you may not be able to have the full “college experience.” So there is no point in attending college if it is only for the social life like you may not be able to experience like everyone else.

Will a college be able to adequately accomodate my chronic illness?

While people can receive accommodations in college, it is entirely up to the university to determine if the accommodation hinders the academic integrity of the course. Though public schools are required to provide accommodations. Accommodations can include extra time for exams and assignments, written notes, permission to record lectures, aid for if you have to miss class, and a private room to take exams. When searching for a college, research and discuss with the university about potential accommodations. CollegeChoice has a list of the “50 Best Disabilty Friendly Colleges and Universities“.

Online or Campus?

Online school is a popular alternative to regular schooling. I did most of high school through cyber school. While doing online school was a benefit for me, it did have drawbacks. I missed the socialization and typical teenage experiences. That’s why I am really excited for college. But if you feel the socialization and social life that comes with a campus university isn’t necessary for you, then an online school could be a great option!

Beware when choosing an online college because many are for-profit and have shady records in putting their students in debt. Here is an informative, HILARIOUS explanation of student debt and for-profit colleges by John Oliver.

Will my health improve, worsen, or stay the same while I attend college?

When thinking of college, you need to think of it in the long run. You will most likely be there for at least 4 years. Can your health worsen to the point where you might have to drop out? My POTS will improve, and if not, stay the same, as I get older. I am experiencing the worst of it now. Another similar question is, will you be able to handle the career that you are studying for? Part of planning for your future with a chronic illness is being realistic about your health. You need to recognize that somethings might not be an option for you. (Sorry for that noninspirational advice… Imagine THAT being a message at the Paralympics haha 🙂 ).

Are there things I can do to prepare myself for college?

When I decided I was moving to Spain, I began my strict diet. It has made my health improve SO MUCH! I don’t think I would be healthy enough for college if I didn’t start the diet. Talk with your doctor and do your own research on if there are any medications, diets, supplements, exercises, etc. that could improve your symptoms.

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