Transitioning from High School to College
Choosing a college can be a challenge for students with spondylitis. During your time in high school you learned how to manage your spondylitis while completing the coursework necessary to graduate. You will continue to apply these same management skills not only in college, but also throughout your life.
How Do I Decide?
Do your homework first.
Decide what things are important to you when considering a school. Consider the following:
- Coursework and degrees offered
- School size
- Availability of health care
Research potential schools. Enlist the help of your guidance counselor, review college guidebooks and search the Internet to investigate which schools best fit your needs.
Make a list of likely possibilities.
Visit the schools that you are most interested in. During the visits, be sure to do the following:
- Attend an information session
- Take a campus tour
- Visit the campus health center.
- Find out what hours the health center is open
- Find out whom you can talk to if you have questions or concerns.
- Ask "are there health care providers who are knowledgeable about or have experience with spondylitis?"
- Ask "are there any support groups on campus?" or any other questions that you think might be relevant.
- Visit the medical center or hospital closest to campus and find out about the programs and resources they have.
It is up to you to decide if and when, during the admission process, you want to talk with an admission representative about your spondylitis. This can be a complex question and you may want your college counselor and physician to help you decide. Admissions officers generally welcome this information. Sometimes you can informally talk to a college representative to discuss housing, transportation to the nearest medical center, or any other support needs.
Chances are that by now you've learned how to cope with your spondylitis in the classroom. If you have a system that works for you, stick with it. Again, talking to people about your spondylitis is a personal decision. That said, there could be advantages to alerting your dean, advisor and professors. If your condition might periodically affect your ability to learn due to pain, treatment, or fatigue, your dean or advisor can help you plan and balance your college years by optimally distributing courses that are demanding. Also, should a situation arise in which you are prevented from taking an exam or completing an assignment, having an informed dean step in to help arrange a make-up exam or extension can make life a lot easier. If such a situation is likely, don't wait until it arises to tell the people who can help you.
Your Social Life
Most high school seniors are concerned about their social transition to college. It's perfectly normal to worry about the transition, and to be concerned about how your spondylitis will affect your social life. Again, the choice to tell your friends and roommates is yours. Be prepared -- your new friends may not know much about your disease and the implications it has. One way to handle this is to provide information about the condition. The Spondylitis Association of America can provide pamphlets, lists of FAQs and other educational materials that can be helpful.
When you visit campuses, if possible, arrange to stay overnight with a student. This will give you a real taste of what the social scene is like. You may want to consider how the way you choose to live your life at college (e.g. deprivation) may affect your condition. In addition, you might decide that living with a roommate isn't a good idea.
As you go through the process, remember that your initial decisions need not be permanent. If having a roommate doesn't work out, the situation can always be changed. If you choose the wrong class, you will likely be able to drop it. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can be successful and happy at college. You succeeded in high school and you can succeed in college.