Attending a College
There's more to college than roommates and classes. College is a great time to learn more about what you want to do with your life through various clubs and activities. It's also a time for numerous late night parties and pizza orders.
The flexibility of college is also a good time to work on staying healthy and figuring out what works best for you. Are you actually an early morning person as long as you've been getting sufficient sleep each night? Do you do your best studying and concentrating in the late afternoon? Learning these things in your first semesters can make a difference.
Continue to manage stress, get enough sleep and eat healthy. You might also want to take advantage of your college's counseling or wellness center. These offices usually offer stress management workshops on a regular basis and might be able to offer additional tips. It's probably a good idea to swing by the campus health center to make sure they have your health records anyway.
Most universities provide some type of on-campus health center. It may be a huge complex offering everything from eye exams to dental care or it may be a small office that is limited to strep tests and allergy shots. Either way, it's likely to be your first stop if you need a check-up or any blood work.
Before you arrive on campus, it's best to contact the health center to find out what services they offer. You may find that they have a neurologist on staff or that they can provide an easy location for medicine refills. You'll want to find out which medical records, if any, they need and ensure they have a copy of your vaccinations record and health insurance card.
Once you arrive, you can make an appointment to see their doctors for a quick meet and greet, but be forewarned that they're usually swamped! If nothing else, it's a good idea to call and confirm that they have your prescriptions on file and don't need any additional information.
You're probably not the only student with epilepsy on your campus, but you may be the only one taking your specific medicine. If you use the student health center to refill your prescriptions, try to call about a week in advance to ensure you don't run out of medicine.
If your school health center doesn't provide prescription services, you may find it's easier to use a mail order pharmacy than to arrange transportation to a local pharmacy. Ask your insurance company if they participate in any mail order pharmacy services and ask your doctor to write your prescriptions in three-month orders. As an added benefit, you might find that your medicine is cheaper through the mail.
Dealing with Insurance
Whether you use the college's insurance plan or remain on your parents' plan, you'll want to find out how using the student health center will affect you in terms of co-pays and deductibles (for more on these, click here ).
If you use the university's insurance plan, make sure you read the fine print about visiting doctors off-campus during holiday breaks or over summer vacation. Remember that student health centers generally don't provide the same services or access to medical professionals that you may be used to. Many school health centers have reduced hours during school breaks and tend to focus more on basic health needs. If your epilepsy needs regular monitoring by a health care professional, you may want to find a good doctor near your college. Your current doctor can work with you to open a strong line of communication with your doctor and to ensure that you receive the care and monitoring you need.
Remember too that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 now allows young adults to remain on their parents health insurance up to the age of 26, and that you cannot be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
College may be one of the only times when you'll get access to a gorgeous new gym for little to no cost. Take advantage of it!
Use this opportunity to take free or low-cost classes and learn how to use the machines and free weights safely. Who knows, you may find that weight lifting is great stress relief!
Paying for College
Whether you're taking out loans, working a part-time job or lucking out with an enviable scholarship load, chances are there's always room for a little more cash flow.
Did you know there are scholarships especially for people with epilepsy? There may be additional restrictions, but here's a quick list.
Living with Roommates
College might be about living on your own, but in many cases, it's equally about living with roommates. If you're used to having your own room and suddenly have to share, that can be a transition all of its own. Many universities are moving to apartment-style housing where three to six students share a suite with several bathrooms, a kitchen and common area. Although a suite means you're less likely to be sharing a bedroom, it also means you'll have more roommates in total.
Deciding Who to Tell
It's probably wise to tell your roommate, especially if you share a room. If you live with multiple roommates, you might want to tell everyone or decide to tell the one or two people to whom you've grown closest.
If you live in a dorm with a Resident Assistant (RA), you should tell your RA. If you have a seizure, chances are your dorm mates will call the RA and it's important that he or she knows what to do. If you feel comfortable, you can ask your RA to let you talk about epilepsy during a monthly floor or dorm gathering or you can ask to decorate a floor bulletin board with information on epilepsy.
How and What to Tell
How much information you give is up to you. You might just want to tell someone that you have epilepsy, describe your seizures and let them know the best first aid strategy. They may have more questions, especially if they're a pre-med or nursing major. If you feel comfortable answering their questions, feel free. If you don't feel comfortable, you might want to give them a brochure on epilepsy or show them this website and offer to talk about it later if they still have questions.
If you have auras or a distinct feeling before a seizure arrives, you may want to describe these feelings or actions to your roommates and RA. If they know the signs of an impending seizure, they can help to move you to a safe place before the seizure starts.
You'll also want to let people know when they should call 911, your doctor or your parents. You may ask them to call 911 if your seizure lasts more than 5 minutes or if you don't wake up afterwards.
Let people know that although you have epilepsy, you're not any more "breakable" than they are. Seizures look scary, but you've lived through them before. Try to acknowledge their concerns with positive reinforcements, but you can also let people know that epilepsy is just a small part of your life and it's not stopping you! You may want to ask people to "watch out, not watch over" you.
Finally, it's always a good idea to post first aid information on your dorm fridge. List contact numbers for your doctor and parents and specific instructions about when they or 911 should be called. It may be helpful to purchase a stopwatch with a magnet on the back (or attach one with superglue) and put that on the fridge too. If you live in a single room, hang first aid directions on your dorm room door and keep a stopwatch hanging on the door knob. People who have never seen a seizure before will think it lasts much longer than it actually did.
Epilepsy and College: Strategies for Success
Learn more about planning ahead for college to lessen your risks, improve safety, and increase the chance of a successful college experience both in and out of the classroom in a webinar with Elaine Kiriakopoulos MD, Katherine C. Nickels MD, and Allison Nichols Esq. from August 14, 2019.
Epilepsy centers provide you with a team of specialists to help you diagnose your epilepsy and explore treatment options.
Find in-depth information on anti-seizure medications so you know what to ask your doctor.
Epilepsy and Seizures 24/7 Helpline
Call our Epilepsy and Seizures 24/7 Helpline and talk with an epilepsy information specialist or submit a question online.
Tools & Forms
Download our seizure tracking app, print out seizure action plans, or explore other educational materials.