Surviving College with a Chronic Condition

Living with a chronic health condition can turn everyday life into a 24-hour obstacle course. Activities which may seem mundane can require hours of extra planning, supplies, and time to accomplish. Add this to the ever-inflating cost of prescription medications and barriers in understanding personal struggles, and people with lifelong health issues are often left exhausted just trying to live an average life.

College life is one such potential barrier to navigate. This is often the first time people experience a lifestyle independent from home and are solely responsible for the upkeep of their health and daily regime on top of the new stresses of school. Thankfully, whether you’re an incoming freshman with a chronic health issue or a current student with a new diagnosis, there are ways to navigate these challenges without compromising your education.


  1. Inform Your Professors - Depending on your condition, there may be times when you need to be absent from class for extended periods of time. It’s important to build a relationship with your professors and inform them of your limitations and unique needs early. Most professors are willing to work with you to help you keep up in class without sacrificing your health. Additionally, a good student teacher relationship can provide you an avenue for advice and conversation when stresses surrounding your schooling, health, and life in general arise.
  2. Check University Resources - One of your first contacts if you have a chronic health condition should be your school’s disability services department. It’s their job to connect students with particular needs to resources on and around campus. If you require special housing, have dietary restrictions, or need transportation to get medication, a few calls to disability services can often answer all ofyour questions. They can also point you to groups on campus, such as support groups, to help ease the transition into a new lifestyle with health restrictions.
  3. Know Your Limits - It can be difficult to admit you have limitations because of your health. Accepting it and adjusting your schedule accordingly can take loads of stress off your shoulders. Dedicate time for breaks throughout your day in order to rest, eat, and take medicine. This way, you can accomplish all you need to in a day while avoiding burnouts.
  4. Don’t Force It - Speaking of knowing your limits, this also applies to your social life. While it can be great to go out with friends after a long week of classes, sacrificing your health for the sake of keeping up with your friend group isn’t always worth it. Be open and honest with your friends about what you can and can’t do. Try to find ways you can all enjoy yourselves without the risk of aggravating your condition to the point of concern or, even worse, emergency.


Having chronic health conditions can be a bitter pill to swallow. Often times, it feels like your body and mind are at war, creating a struggle between what you want to achieve and your physical limitations. Having a positive college experience and living within the boundaries of your health do not need to be mutually exclusive. With planning, understanding, and the support of those around you, reaching your full potential with these obstacles is possible. Always remember, you are not defined by your chronic condition. You are remarkable for fighting and succeeding despite it.