college studentGuest Post by Laura Burkhart, MD

“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

In the part of this series, I will go into a little further into the details of visiting a campus and what you need to have ready from a health standpoint. If you and your teen are still finding yourself stuck on where to even start looking to apply, you can refer back to the previous post.

Now that you and your teen have decided on what campuses to visit (great job by the way, that can be the toughest part!), it is time to discuss what is often the most exciting part for your teen…the tour. A campus tour is a great way to become familiar with the institution, not only for the physical elements, but also for the health resources offered. It is important for your teen to have a support system on campus of caring professionals that can offer assistance if needed.

While exploring the campus, make sure to find out what type of health services are available, as this can vary dramatically depending on the institute. Some campuses are equipped with clinics with primary care and specialties, while others have smaller capabilities such as handling only minor illnesses or first aid. If you are visiting a community college, this is especially important to seek out, as many do not have health services on campus and your teen will need to have an alternative health care provider.

Often overlooked, but equally as important are the mental health counseling services. Making the transition to college can be as stressful as it is exciting, and many students find themselves struggling with mental health problems such as depression, so this resource can be crucial. Make sure to find out about insurance coverage and student health fees as well, so your teen can access services without difficulty when needed.

If your teen has a prior medical history or chronic problem, it can be very helpful for the campus health care center to be aware of ongoing health concerns. A great way to loop them in is to have your teen’s primary care provider send a medical record summary including active medications, allergies, previous diagnosis and interventions and anything else potentially significant. Take this last year in high school as a time to help your teen learn and start taking ownership of their medical history and conditions.

Making sure your teen is up to date on their vaccines before going to college is highly recommended for both their health and the health of the other students. Look into the requirements of what documentation the school needs and don’t wait till the last minute as this can hold up the enrollment process. Talk with your teen’s primary care provider to see if they are up to date, as some vaccines require a booster dose. For more information on immunizations including state mandates, visit the CDC.

It can be tough to navigate the transition of your teen in becoming a young, independent adult, but you are still one of the most important influences in their life. Setting your teen up for success in their education by ensuring they have a strong health network is vital. Have fun touring and make the most of this time with your teen!