Health and Mental Health Services
Colleges do more than just provide a classroom education. Even if you don’t live at school, you will still be spending lots of time there and hopefully meeting new people and participating in school activities and groups. You will probably also receive medical or mental health care at some point while on campus, so it’s important to know what services are offered and how you’ll be supported.
For many attending college, this will be the first time you are taking charge of your own medical care. And if your college is far from your home, you will probably not be able to depend on the doctors or therapists you saw when you were in high school. As a result, it is a good idea to get a feeling for what kinds of medical and mental health care and support are available at the schools you are considering. Depending on your medical history and specific needs, there are both practical and also less obvious things to consider.
First, if you already have a medical or mental health condition, you should make sure that the campus or local community has the resources needed to help you stay healthy. If you have diabetes or depression, you need to make sure that there is on-campus or near campus access to doctor(s) or therapist(s) who can help you get the care you need (more on this in “transitioning care”). But everyone has problems from time to time and it is worthwhile to find out whether the school gives all students access to basic medical or mental health care. Try to find out how the clinics are staffed. Are there enough clinicians for the size of the student body? Does it seem easy or hard to get care? Find this out by looking into office hours, where these services are located on campus, and even into the student newspaper to see if anyone has written about long waits to be seen. Find out whether the campus clinics are free and how many visits students can receive (for example, most schools provide free counseling but many have a limit on how many visits they provide each student).
Just as important but often overlooked, find a school’s counseling and student affairs sections of its website and see how they “feel.” Is this information hard to find on the college’s main website? If it is, the school might not be so proud of or welcoming to these services; the same is true if the office hours and location(s) are really inconvenient. Is the language clear and the tone friendly? Is the information pretty thorough about how you can get care and who is providing it?
When it comes to your college choice, don’t just think about the classes, labs, gym facilities and dorms. If you’ll be living at school, you need all the things people need to have at home – including good healthcare. Staying healthy and emotionally fit will help you thrive and have a positive and successful experience at school.