Living With Crohn’s: How to Choose the Right College for You

Health Writer
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Most of your friends will choose a college based on academic majors, sports, and clubs. However, if you have Crohn’s disease, you may need to think through a whole different set of standards. Read on to learn about 10 attributes of a college you should consider when picking the right school for you.


Availability of disability services

“One of the most important things a prospective student can do is meet with the disability/accessibility office staff during a campus tour and ask how many students they have worked with that have Crohn’s disease,” Thomas Webb, director of the Office of Disability Services at Wright State University, told HealthCentral in an email interview. “It is also a good idea to ask what the typical accommodations are for those students. If the college struggles to answer, then you may want to consider another college.”


Proximity of a Crohn’s disease support group

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, there are hundreds of support groups for people with Crohn’s disease throughout the country. Each year, 38 local chapters hold more than 200 support groups where you can connect with others living with the disease. Knowing that there will be a support group close to your college could be very reassuring.


Availability of good medical care

Rural colleges can be beautifully situated in the country with easy access to wilderness areas and farms. However, they can also be far from comprehensive medical care. When choosing your college, find out how far it is to the nearest hospital. Also investigate whether the hospital has a gastroenterologist on staff and if they accept your health insurance.


Choice of a private bathroom

Many college dorms are suite style, meaning you usually have one or more roommates who share your bathroom, kitchen, and living space. While this can make for quick friendships, it may also be nerve-wracking if you know four people are waiting for you to finish up in the bathroom, especially during a disease flare-up. Ask about the availability of housing with a private bathroom for peace of mind.


An accommodating cafeteria

It is important to find out what the meal plan requirements are on campus, especially for first-year students. Some schools require students to eat every meal on campus, while other colleges are more flexible and allow mini fridges and microwaves in the dorm rooms. These days, most cafeteria staff are well-versed in special dietary needs, but stopping by for a quick visit and discussion on your college tour is still a good idea.


Academic buildings located near one another

On some larger college campuses, it can be miles between classroom buildings. This may mean you won't have as much time between classes as you may need. If the campus is spread out, it could also mean a long trek from your car or dorm if you need a change of clothes. Talking to the office of student support services ahead of time about possible accommodations, such as priority scheduling of classes or passes for parking spaces closer to key buildings, could be helpful.


Proximity to a pharmacy

At many colleges, first-year students are not allowed to have a car on campus due to parking limitations. Attending a college without a pharmacy located within walking distance could prove stressful when it comes to time to pick up medications or supplies that you will need to manage your Crohn’s disease.


Academic forgiveness policies

Virtually all colleges offer students some form of academic forgiveness policies. Understanding what policies are available could take the stress off if you find yourself in a difficult semester due to a Crohn’s flare-up. Some colleges allow you to withdraw from classes without grades or repeat the courses and use the new grades if you had a bad semester.


In-room mini fridges

If you are living with Crohn’s disease, you know that some foods work better for your gut than others. Attending a college that has already has a refrigerator in your room to store your go-to foods can be a tremendous help as you adjust to your new surroundings.


Exercise opportunities

Exercise has many benefits, and if you have Crohn’s, it can be an important tool for your college success. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, incorporating exercise into your college routine can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and manage stress. When choosing a college, find out the available hours of the recreation facilities and make sure these hours will fit into your academic schedule. Also ask about whether facilities are open to all students, and not just athletes.


When you’re living with a chronic condition like Crohn’s disease, your needs vary from that of the average, healthy college student. Keeping these considerations at top of mind when you’re on your search for the best school for you can help ensure you have a successful and low-stress college experience.