Living with a Chronic Illness While Attending College

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By Tishawna Williams

Tishawna is a part of the TLC College Ambassador Program and attends North Carolina A&T University.

Most college students struggle balancing academics and extracurricular activities, but students living with a chronic illness have an extra burden to deal with. Managing a disease while striving to maintain good grades is a full time job. You will have trouble abiding by your school attendance policy, and will sometimes miss days or weeks of school due to receiving treatment. Managing the disease is a major concern for these students, but dealing with the attendance policy can be emotionally and financially draining.

I am a student who lives with heart disease, undergoing this struggle while attending North Carolina A&T State University. I urge students with chronic diseases to seek a medical specialist with reasonable proximity to your campus. You should schedule regular appointments, whether you are suffering from symptoms or not. Also, make sure the doctor has an up-to-date copy of your medical records. It’s also your responsibility to inform your professors about the illness at the beginning of the semester.

Every college has a disability service. The disability service can provide transportation to accommodate doctor visits, alternative residence and alternative meal plans. Some disability services provide stenographers to attend classes and take notes for those who struggle with the attendance policy because of treatment. These services are very beneficial for those suffering and want to abide by their attendance policy.

Students with chronic conditions who miss prolonged periods of class should think of part-time enrollment. By registering for only one or two classes, students with illnesses may be able to manage their academics and disease more efficiently. Online education has proven popular with all students. Those with chronic illnesses can benefit from earning their degree from home. I suggest any student suffering from a chronic illness to schedule regular meetings with their advisor to discuss options.

Each major college or university has student resources that can help those with disabilities. These services are dedicated to helping students with physical and health issues. Some schools offer programs aimed at students with disabilities and chronic illness. However, these programs are rare in the United States.

If you are a student suffering from a chronic illness, stand strong and keep fighting for your health and academics. As someone who has chronic struggles everyday, I know you can do it.