Emily Barylske is one of our student writers here at CollegeXpress. She takes common college search questions and researches the answers. Those helpful answers end up here in our new Q&A With Emily column! If you have a question for Emily, feel free to leave it in a comment, send us an e-mail, or get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Question: I have a mental illness. What steps should I take going into my chosen college?
Well, there are a few steps you need to take when you’re getting ready to go to your future college.
This is an important question because it’s a topic not many students know about. When you’re living with a mental illness, it’s so critical to take steps to make college a little less stressful than it already is. I understand mental illness, and I hope these steps help you.
The tips below will make moving onto campus easier for students living with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and more. Just keep in mind that they’re for students who have already chosen their college—searching for colleges that can help you with your mental illness is a whole different story!
In any case, please remember that this advice is not a substitute for talking to your doctor or another mental health professional. Speaking of which…
Speak with your doctor and/or therapist
Your pediatrician or any mental health professional you are seeing can be a great first step for figuring out how to get ready for college. They can suggest exercises and coping mechanism that will help you, and they can walk you through some of the challenges you might face.
Also, if you think you’ll need special accommodations in college, like getting extra time on tests, you’ll need a note from your doctor (by the way, there are a ton of helpful links in that article too). That way the college can make those accommodations for you—more on that in the next section.
Plan your own campus preview day
Talk to your parents and/or admission counselor about planning your own campus preview day, kind of like any other campus visit but done on your own terms and including a visit to the college’s counseling and health services center. This way you can talk face to face with the people who will be there to work with you when you arrive on campus in the fall and start to mentally prepare for your transition to college.
These mental health professionals can sit down with you and walk through the kind of opportunities they can offer you. For example, some colleges offer students with anxiety separate testing spaces. Or students with ADHD can get preferential seating, so they’re in areas of the classroom that can be less distracting. Students might also be able to get regular counseling on campus. Just ask about what’s available to you, because these resources can change depending on the campus.
Report it on your housing application and medical records
In college, you can get help when you need it without disclosing any mental health issues—so never be afraid to go to the campus health and wellness center and ask for help if you need it. But being honest on your records can help the college lead you in the right direction of certain steps they may want you to take. The college will see your records and may ask you to file for disability in their health services department.
More help for incoming college students living with mental illness
- What's Your Plan? College with a Mental Health Disorder
- Managing a Mental Health Condition in College
- College Guide For Students With Psychiatric Disabilities
- 3 Ways Students With Mental Illness Can Prepare for College
Do you have any questions about managing mental illness in college? Leave a comment or get in touch here.