Welcome to the student section of the U-M IBD web site. This section is specifically targeted towards college students with IBD, specifically Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. We hope this site will help make your college adjustments easier and that you will share stories and ideas with other students in similar situations by posting on our message board. The goal of this site is to provide information as well as opportunites to communicate with other students and to participate in research.
Crohn's and Colitis Student Initiative
The Crohn's and Colitis Student Initiative (CCSI) was created by Dr. Ellen Zimmermann as a forum for students and other members of the University of Michigan community and surrounding colleges to talk about their disease (IBD) with other similarly affected students. CCSI allows students with IBD to meet one another, voice IBD-related concerns, and build a supportive community with great people! The main focuses of the group are support, discussion, fundraising and awareness. The CCSI is a dynamic way for those involved to gain more knowledge about these diseases from people who are affected by them every day.
Info for Students
As a college student it is already hard enough balancing your work load, social life, and other factors that effect daily living. Adding a chronic disease to those factors can make college more of a challenge, especially during a flare-up. Just because you have IBD it does not mean that you cannot go on living your daily life. It is important to go on with your daily routine not letting the disease control you.
- U-M campus resources - download pdf
- Sample letter for professors - download pdf
Here are some suggestions you may find helpful:
Dealing with Doctors and School
- Don't isolate yourself because of your symptoms. Find a way to manipulate your environment to take full advantage of school.
- Find the doctors with IBD expertise near your college.
- Don't forget to get regular checkups and colonoscopies if needed - don't get too busy!
- It is important to take full advantage of all that college has to offer, anywhere from parties to student life organizations, but be careful with the effects of missing sleep and alcohol on your symptoms. The key is to do everything in moderation!
- Meet with your school's Disabilities Office before school starts and have a plan worked out in case you become sick and need to miss classes. Bring doctor confirmation of your disease with you.
- Get to know your professors and if you miss class follow up with them. This way they know the situation and are more likely to be accommodating.
- Keep on top of your work. If you happen to not feel well one day it will make things easier if you don't have as many tasks to accomplish.
- Find a seat by the door during class incase you need to get up to use the restroom. It will cause less of a disruption that way.
- Get to know at least one person in each of your classes. When you miss class due to not feeling well you will know you will be able to get the notes.
- If you have to live in the dorms, check into the reduced occupancy or single rooms and if those are not available ask for one closer to the community bathrooms. By bringing a letter from your gastroenterologist you have a better chance of getting these accommodations.
Dealing With Personal and Social Issues
- Let your roommates know your situation. It will be a lot easier if a problem arises or you need them to take you to the hospital or doctor's office.
- Keep a good line of communication open with family, friends, doctors, professors, etc. By being open with them they are more likely to be understanding instead of guessing what is going on and giving you trouble.
- Learn to manage your time, including planning time for yourself. You will appreciate having time to relax, especially when you’re not feeling well.
- Learn to manage your stress. Sometimes it can aggravate your symptoms so know how to handle situations when they come along.
- Find out if there is an IBD support group on campus and if there is get involved! See the U-M IBD student group's Facebook page.
- Don't be afraid to see a counselor. Because stress can sometimes irritate your system, talking with someone might help you sort any issues out.
- Having a social life is important and so is not giving in to peer pressure. Know your body and know when to say no when you aren’t feeling well.
"Just in Case"
- Carry around a doctor's note and at least some medical records including any recent test results in case a situation comes up in which you need information or verification.
- Look ahead and make sure you have enough medication or supplies to last you until you know you are able to get more.
- Carry extra medication with you in your backpack/purse. This will enable you to go to class and do other activities without worrying about going home to take your medication.
- Carry a card in your purse/wallet listing any medications you might be on in case of an emergency.
How to Get Help When You Are Sick
Before going off to college, contact health services or locate a gastroenterologist in the area. In case of an emergency, you'll know who to call and they’ll already have a record of your condition.
Know the locations and phone numbers of any hospitals or clinics in your area.
Call your doctor at the first sign of symptoms. Getting treatment earlier in a flare-up will prevent a worsening of your condition and longer periods of time away from class.
Chances are you might be given a medication temporarily and will need to have a prescription filled. Find out where your closest pharmacy is and have the phone number ready for your doctor to call in a prescription.
Have all your professors' e-mail addresses grouped together so that you can send one e-mail message if you have to miss class because you are going home for treatment. This will save the time and hassle of locating their e-mail addresses or office phone numbers.
For college students financial concerns and tight funds can be major issues, but for students with chronic illnesses financial problems can be even bigger. Medications, doctor’s appointments, and procedural costs can be very expensive and add up quickly especially when dealing with a flare-up. It is not uncommon to find students without health insurance or short on financial support. Health insurance can be difficult to understand, but given the right information a plan can be figured out and some of your costs can start being covered. Getting a health insurance plan can be crucial when treating your disease. Because of the extreme expenses that can really add up some students opt to not go to the doctor when they are having complications with their disease, which can be very dangerous.
Here are some things to think about:
- Stay on top of your treatment. This will help prevent further complications and further costs.
- Check with the health services program at your college/university. Sometimes there are student plans offered through them.
- Your parent or guardian's plan might be able to cover you, at least until you are out of school. Look at their coverage and see what it entails.
- Look over the guidelines for pre-existing medical conditions. This will come into play with your IBD since some providers don’t cover costs or have limited coverage at the beginning of the plan.
- Some coverage might only occur if you are within a certain distance from your school, so look into closer providers if that applies so you can still be covered.
- Insurance plans sometimes only cover full time students. If you are taking classes look into how many credit hours you will need to take.
- Research the insurance company you intend on go with so you don't end up spending more than you need to be or should be.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help or go to a consultant. They can help you figure out exactly what you need or don't need.
Services for Students with Disabilities (SSWD) at the University of Michigan