Going to college is a very important and exciting time in your life. It can be a big change from what you’re used to. This guide will help prepare you for some situations that you may face during college, and help you make smart decisions so you can make the most out of your college experience.
What’s important for me to know about before I go to college?
Filling Out your College Enrollment Health Form: After you have sent in your acceptance to the college or university that you will be attending, you will be required to mail back a completed health form with a record of all of your immunizations (vaccines/shots/boosters). You should receive this health form in the information packet that you get in the mail. You will need to call your primary care provider’s (PCP’s) office and arrange to have this form filled out. If you haven’t had a recent physical, you will probably need one. It’s also important to know if you have any allergies and to include this information on your health form. Your HCP’s office may be able to send or fax the health form directly to the student health center at your college.
Getting Information from your Primary Care Provider’s (PCPs) Office: Call your primary care provider’s office. Let the office know what you need – your immunization record, documentation of any health problems, your medications and allergies. You should check all the medication you are taking and make a list. Along with a copy of your immunization record, you should get a list of all of the medications that you are currently taking, including the strength (amount of milligrams) and the dosage (how much you should take). You should also have a list of your allergies (to food, medications, or the environment), any past medical problems (illnesses, surgeries and hospital stays), mental health problems, and special needs (chronic health problems and disabilities). It’s also a good time to update your family medical history. It’s a good idea to make a copy of all of your medical records for yourself as well. Keep this information with other important papers that you plan on taking to college.
Your Immunizations Must Be Up-To-Date: Your primary care provider will make sure that your immunizations (shots and boosters) are current. You should ask your PCP if you are up to date on the meningococcal vaccine to protect you against the very serious infection meningitis (inflammation of the brain tissue).
There are certain shots you must have before going to college unless you sign a waiver. Check out your state’s requirements regarding the vaccine. Make sure you keep a copy of your immunization record.
Health Insurance: You’ll need to make sure that you have health insurance while you are at college. Talk with your parent(s)/guardian(s) to see if you are covered under their health plan, and to discuss any questions that you have.
You should find out:
- What type of plan you are on (HMO, PPO, etc.)
- What the policy covers – visits to your college health services may be covered with your tuition
- How to file claims
- What to do in the case of an emergency
Don’t forget to take a copy of your health insurance card with you. You should always keep it in your wallet, because you may be asked to show it if you ever need urgent health care. You should remember that your parent(s)/guardian(s) will likely be notified every time that the insurance company is billed if you are on their policy. If you aren’t covered under their insurance plan, you will probably be able to sign up for your own health insurance through your college.
Prescription Medicine: It’s important to get your prescription(s) filled before you leave for college. If you’ll be far from home, it is a good idea to ask your PCP if you can get extra refills for medicine that you use on a regular basis, such as an inhaler. You should also find out the name and phone number of a pharmacy near your school and figure out how to get refills when you need them. If you can’t get refills at a local pharmacy, you may be able to use a mail order prescription system which often sends a three month supply at a time or your parent(s)/guardian(s) may need to mail your refills to you. If you have a food allergy, it is extremely important to ensure that you have your epi-pens to take with you. You should get two, one to keep in your dorm room and one to carry with you at all times.
First Aid Supplies
What should I take with me to college in case I get sick or have a small emergency?
Most college and university campuses have a student health center where you can go if you are sick with a cold, flu, need first aid, etc. However, most student health centers aren’t open 24 hours a day, and may not be open at all on the weekends. Therefore, it’s a good idea to buy a few supplies and make a home-made first aid kit to keep in your dorm room. Chances are you won’t need to use it, but if you do, you’ll be glad that you have the supplies on hand.
Your kit should include:
- Digital thermometer
- Adhesive bandages for small cuts and scrapes
- Gauze and adhesive tape
- Antibacterial/antibiotic ointment (For example, Bacitracin®)
- An ice pack or chemical cold pack
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for aches and fevers
- Allergy medicine (especially if you have itchy eyes and tend to sneeze from pollen/dust)
- Cough and cold medicine
- Sore throat lozenges
- Calamine lotion
What can I do to stay healthy?
Eat nutritious food, exercise, and get plenty of rest.
What should I know about nutrition and eating well?
Eating well will keep your body strong, and help your immune system fight off germs that cause colds and other common illnesses.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Try to eat 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Choose foods that are baked, steamed, or grilled, rather than fried.
- Choose fresh foods such as steamed vegetables, fresh fruits, and grilled chicken instead of fast food or processed food.
- Limit the amount of salt that you use. Check out food labels to see if the food you choose is low in sodium.
- Cut down on junk food (candy, chips, soft drinks, etc.).
- Snack on healthy foods such as popcorn, string cheese, fruits, and vegetables.
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water or non-caffeinated fluids every day. Be aware that juice often has the same amount of sugar as soda.
- Remember dairy products. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are high in calcium, which keeps your bones healthy. Eat or drink 3 servings a day of low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
- Take a daily multivitamin (with iron and 0.4 mg folic acid) and 600 units of vitamin D each day.
- If you’re a vegetarian, get all the nutrients that you need .
What do I need to know about exercise?
Another important way to stay healthy, reduce stress, and manage your weight is to exercise. Try to include aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening, and stretching exercises into your daily routine. It is recommended that you exercise approximately 60 minutes each day.
- Aerobic exercises include biking, running, fast walking, swimming, dancing, soccer, step aerobics, etc. You can tell that you are doing aerobic exercise because your heart will speed up and you will start breathing faster. However, you should still be able to talk when you are doing aerobic exercise.
- Strengthening exercises (such as sit-ups, push-ups, leg lifts, or weight training) will build up your muscles and keep your bones healthy.
- Stretching exercises (such as yoga) will make you more flexible, so you will be less likely to strain a muscle.
- You can also get exercise by doing simple things, such as walking or riding a bike (with a helmet, of course), instead of driving or taking the bus.
What do I need to know about getting enough rest?
You may realize that after you get to college, you don’t get as much sleep as you were used to getting. This is typical for college students, however your body needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night to be at the top of your game.
Sleep deprivation (not enough sleep) can cause you to feel:
- Stressed, sad, or depressed
- Tired, and you may find hard to stay awake in class
- Unfocused, or have a hard time concentrating
- Sick with lots of colds and other minor illnesses (because your body cannot fight off germs as well)
Try to get enough sleep so you’ll be able to get the most out of your classes and enjoy social activities too.
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