Care Down There

Heading back to college? Here is how to get your health in order before you do

Doctors appointments may not be the first thing on your mind as you head back to school, but don’t forget about them as you plan to break free from home! It is so important to take charge of your own healthcare as you become more independent, and the following tips can help get you there. 

Take ownership of your healthcare

While you may have relied on a parent to manage your doctor’s appointments, now is the time to take over! This includes managing your prescriptions and scheduling your own doctor’s appointments. Don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be scary! Here are some of the main things you will need to know to when scheduling a doctor’s appointment:

Health Insurance and In-Network Providers

Health insurance can be difficult to navigate. It may be helpful to have a discussion with your parents about the following: What kind of health insurance plan are you on? Are you on your parents’ plan, or will you be purchasing insurance through your college? If you are on your parents’ health insurance, check out the plan’s website. There you’ll be able to find out which health providers near your school are covered by your insurance. Finally, make sure you bring your own insurance card with you to college! 

Making an Appointment

If you are making an appointment with a health provider that is not affiliated with your college’s health center: 

  • Identify an in-network healthcare provider (from the insurance website or by calling the number on your insurance card).
  • Check out their website for their office’s contact information and hours. Before making an appointment, it will be helpful to have an idea of your schedule and to have a couple dates and times in mind. 
  • Contact the office and schedule an appointment. Most likely, you will have to call the office to schedule an appointment. Have your insurance card in hand as they will likely ask for your insurance information.

If you are scheduling an appointment with your campus’s health center, this process may look a little different:

  • Check out your college’s health center’s website. This will have information about scheduling appointments that fit your needs. 

Note: Depending on your insurance, you may have to pay a copay for some appointments. 

Get familiar with your campus’s resources/health center

The health resources available to you on campus will vary from college to college. First, check out the health center website for your college. They may have information on how to schedule an appointment, what kind of services they provide, what kind of providers they have, and more. It can also be helpful to find out where the health center is located on campus. There may also be an online health portal associated with your college’s health center. You may be able to schedule appointments, view test results, and request prescriptions or refills. Another thing to consider is if your health center has a pharmacy. If not, research which pharmacies are near your campus and accept your insurance.

Privacy matters

Once you turn 18, you aren’t required to share your health information with your parents. Get comfortable talking to your doctor about your health concerns – trust me, we have heard it all and nothing shocks us. It may be helpful to start directly speaking with your doctor about any concerns instead of having your parent speak about them for you to get used to this before being off on your own. As you start attending appointments by yourself, you may feel more comfortable discussing concerns with your doctor. 

It is important to know that if you are on your parents’ insurance plan that they may be able to see things like tests you’ve had done. If you don’t want them to know, be sure to discuss it with your doctor before anything is ordered. They may have a way of navigating this such as coding it a certain way or having you pay with cash with a discounted fee.

Make sure you are informed on sexual health

Did you know that medically accurate sex education is not required in most states? It’s a super fun fact to bring up at dinner parties. Because of that…it may be helpful to turn to other sources in order to make sure you are properly informed about sexual health.  Don’t be afraid to ask your provider about any questions you might have. The internet also has a wide range of resources on sexual health, some good some not so good. Check out my socials and content on site for the stuff I love and trust!

Know the laws about reproductive rights in the state you attend college

Laws governing reproductive rights vary greatly throughout the United States, so it is important to be aware of what laws will impact you while you attend college. Since Roe v. Wade has recently been overturned, abortion rights are now determined by the state. This may impact the stages of pregnancy you are eligible for an abortion, where you have access to them, and if there are exceptions to the law in cases of rape and incest, and in cases of medically necessary abortions. One of the best places to go to see the rights in your state is the Guttmacher website.

Prepare yourself for health emergencies

There are many health emergencies that can arise at college. The more you can prepare yourself for situations you might encounter, the better you can manage them. Here are some things to consider…

  • Where can you go when an emergency health event happens? Locate hospitals and urgent care centers near you. 
  • Does your campus have its own EMS program? How can you contact them in an emergency? 
  • Is there a mental health hotline at your school if you are having a mental health crisis?
  • Are you on birth control? Do you plan on having sex? What kind of contraception would you use? Do you have emergency contraception on hand just in case?
  • Does your health center offer STI testing?
  • What is your abortion access like in your state?
  • Who is your emergency contact if you weren’t able to answer questions? Identify one or two people and program “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) into your phone for first responders who can find this.

Make sure you are up to date on vaccinations

Many universities have vaccination requirements, so it is important to be aware of these before heading back to school. Your college will likely send you information about their vaccination requirements or you can access information about vaccination requirements on your college’s website. As an OBGYN I am obligated to remind you about the important of the HPV vaccine in preventing cancers of the cervix (among other places) – if you want more info on that, head here to check it out!


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