If you go away to college, this will probably be the first time in your life that you’ll be mostly responsible for your own health care. Here are some things to consider before you get to campus (ok, learning about these things during orientation would be pretty good too unless you have a complicated medical or mental health situation).
Know your campus health care resources
- You can usually get lots of information about campus health, counseling and other student services on your school’s website. During orientation find out where these offices are located on campus, what their hours are and how the campus handles health emergencies (you never know when you might have a bike accident).
- Find out what services are available through campus offices. Are they free? Are there limits? Do you need the school insurance plan to use them (usually not)?
- Put the important numbers in your phone: medical office, counseling, campus security and advising are good numbers to have on your speed dial.
While most campus based health and counseling services are free, if you have an accident or need hospital care for an illness, you’ll need to have health insurance. If a parent already has insurance, you may be able to go onto their policy. If they do not, most schools offer health insurance policies. It is safer to be insured.
Most school health and counseling services have information about local pharmacies where you can get medication if you need it. It is important to recognize that medication can be expensive but most health insurance plans help to cover some or most of the cost of medicines (usually only medicines prescribed by a healthcare provider are covered not over the counter medicines like cold medicine or aspirin type things). If you need to take a medicine regularly for a chronic problem (like asthma, ADHD, or diabetes) it might be easier to have your healthcare provider from back home order this and have a family member pick it up and mail to you.
If you have ongoing health or mental health problems, learn more about transitioning your healthcare from home to college here.
If you are over 18 years old and seek healthcare at school, your health care provider cannot share your healthcare information with your family without your permission. While you are legally entitled to privacy, you are completely permitted to have your campus provider share your information with your family if you’d like. Your family is also allowed to call the health or counseling service or a dean of students to express concern about you if they are worried about something – but those offices cannot always share information back to them about you.
If there is a true health or safety emergency, these offices may contact your family. If possible though, they should tell you they are doing this.
There are also forms you can sign that allow the school to contact your family when you are ill. You can learn more about this and find an example of this kind of waiver form here.