If you have decided to go to college or are exploring options such as trade school or something similar, having psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis should not limit your dreams. While you are on this path there may be some challenges to overcome. Below are some tips to help make transitioning to college life easier.
Whether you are choosing to go to college or trade school, planning for what is to come is important. Beyond researching where to go to college, applying, and taking standardized tests, you also need to consider the needs of your psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. To help address such needs:
Identify Resources Near You
As you choose a college, search their website to see what services are available to help you as a student with a chronic health condition. Questions to ask yourself as you search include:
Is housing or parking close to where my classes will be? This will be important if you have psoriatic arthritis.
Where is the student health center and what services do they offer? Do they offer mental health services if needed?
Where are the closest providers for my health care team and do they accept my insurance?
Where is the closest pharmacy and can they provide my prescriptions?
Are academic adjustments or accommodations due to a disability available if needed? Is a 504 plan transferrable? Are there peer organizations that can help advocate for my needs? Learn more about your rights and responsibilities through the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.
What are my options for eating healthy and being active?
Is this college the right fit for me both physically and mentally?
Ask your parents for help if you need it. While there are many decisions associated with choosing a college, finding answers to this information in advance will make it easier when you move to a college of your choice. Overall, you want to find a college that can meet your needs but also ensures you will be successful.
Visit the Student Health Center
While the health center staff may not be well versed in psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, they will understand that many medications for the disease may compromise your immune system, which may make your system more exposed to germs and viruses. Find out what the health center is like before you get sick. You may find yourself visiting more than you hoped, so it is good to check it out early.
Find Health Insurance Coverage
If you do not have health insurance coverage you may be able to purchase a plan through your college or university. Most student health plans meet the same standards as private insurance plans. See if the plans meet your needs and what health care providers are available to you on and off campus. You may also be eligible to buy individual insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace at healthcare.gov.
Look Out For Your Mental Health
Psoriasis alone brings many emotional challenges, such as how to tell new friends or roommates about your psoriasis, embarrassment about your plaques, and difficult daily treatment regimens. Add in the stress of college classes, being away from home, and perhaps a part-time job and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Make an appointment with a mental health counselor early in your first semester or term. Once you have made the connection with a counselor, you are more likely to reach out for help if or when you need it.
Contact Disability Services at Your College
Advisors and Disability Specialists can help set up a plan to give you a better school outcome. Contact Disability Services when you have been admitted to the college to start the process. If you had a previous 504 Plan or IEP this may help guide the development of your new plan. Most likely you will need to fill out forms documenting your disability and accommodations needs. Your health care provider may need to fill out a form with details of your diagnosis.
Make a list of all things that would make school easier to physically manage such as:
• Extensions for tests or projects when fatigue hits.
• Flexibility when scheduling for classes (maybe early morning is too difficult because of your psoriasis regime or psoriatic arthritis).
• Parking passes to be closer to classes.
You may not always be able to get what you ask for, but there is no harm in asking.
Talk to Your Individual Professors
With so many students, it is easy for communication to get lost between Disability Services and your professor. On the first day of class ask the professor to schedule a time to meet you and get a better understanding of what you need. You can even email your professor ahead of time and then follow up on the first day of class.
Stay as Healthy as Possible
Take steps to reduce your exposure to germs. Wash your hands often. Make a habit of keeping your distance from sick students and staff. Wear a mask. Disinfect your dorm room if a roommate is sick. Also, try to make healthy food choices. If you eat in a dining hall, look at the menus in advance to know what your choices are. Avoid heavy sauces and eat smaller portions. Keep a small refrigerator stocked with water, vegetables, fruit, and low-fat yogurt. For more tips on eating healthy at college visit MyPlate.gov. Now is the time to build healthy habits that will keep you healthy for life.
Build a Circle of Friends!
Build a circle of friends who support you and who you can lean on when you need help and who know you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. If you have roommates and feel comfortable, tell them early on that you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis and what your needs or boundaries are. Such as if you need to place medication in the refrigerator and why. Know that the friends you make in college are usually some of your closest for years to come.
Find more information about relationships and psoriasis. [LINK RELATIONSHIP PAGE]
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