Chronic illnesses can affect people at any age, from the young to the elderly. This can be problematic in high school and college when symptoms can get in the way of schoolwork. Here are tips to survive and maximize your time in school when dealing with such an illness.
1 - Grow a Relationship with Your Counselor/Advisor
Counselors and advisors are there to assist with academic planning and make sure you graduate on time. But did you know they can help you when dealing with a chronic illness? By discussing with your advisor your chronic illness and what that entails for you, they can assist in making sure you balance illness with school. For high school, this can mean discussing options such as online classes, tutoring sessions, and the possibility of a 504 or IEP. For college, this can involve discussing when classes are scheduled (do you have more spoons during the morning, afternoon, or evening?), types of classes (online or lecture?), and what kinds of classes would be best suited to work with your disability. By keeping your advisor updated and in the loop, they can assist in best maximizing your time in college.
2 - Advocate for Yourself
You don’t know what resources are available until you ask and advocate for yourself. Don’t downplay your illness, and let disability know what’s up. Make sure they’re given the health records needed to best assist you. Explain what you think you need. For me, this meant in high school, pushing teachers to use subtitles, even when they thought it was “ugly”, and even going so far as to report a teacher who was being ableist and treating me differently due to my illness. In college, this may mean calling up disability and asking them if they’ve processed your papers and sending in required materials well in advance of your freshman (or transfer) year, and consistently updating with new information and healthcare.
3 - Don’t Get a “Normal” Job
This tip is a tip I actually found in “How to Win at College” by Cal Newport. The gist of it is, don’t get a job in retail or at your school’s bookstore. Instead, find out-of-reach jobs that are often quiet and mundane. This will not only give you a job that’s low demand, it will also be horribly boring, forcing you to study during your work time, and not waste spoons doing both a job and study.
4 - Get a Study Hall
This one is basically #3 for high school students. While study hall isn’t a thing in college, it is in high school and it’s great. Take advantage of a study hall period if you can. Not only is it a great way to get classwork done during the school day so you have more time after school to recuperate and relax, it’s also a good break from the hectic-ness of high school. Typically, study halls are quiet and relaxed. When I was having a particularly awful flare up or just a bad day, I’d use study hall to relax and read or nap if needed. Study hall was also a great time my senior year to research and apply to scholarships. Speaking of scholarships…
5 - Apply for Scholarships
This tip goes for all students. Talk to your school counselors, teachers, librarians, and college for smaller, local scholarships, and use your preferred search engine for the bigger scholarships. But, for chronically ill students, it’s possible there are scholarships for your specific disability. Seek these out! The more you apply to, the more likely you are to receive one, and more scholarships equal more money for college, which equals less time needed to work off student loans.
Pro tip - apply for more smaller scholarships than larger ones. Typically, local scholarships have fewer applicants, making you more likely to stand out in the pool of applicants.