College with Lupus

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2020

Graduating from high school and deciding on college requires planning for every student, and even more planning for a student with lupus. Besides choosing a school, major, and classes, you also will need to prepare yourself financially and medically. Lupus may throw some extra obstacles in your path as you educate yourself for a career, but plenty of support exists to help you.

Understand your health insurance

Health insurance coverage is particularly important for people with lupus. You should start learning about your insurance at age 16 or 17 so you have time to absorb all the new terms and understand how your coverage will work in college. You may be covered under your parent’s insurance, or you may not.

If your health insurance is provided by Medicaid, coverage ends when you turn 19. This means you will need to buy your own health insurance, which is a time-consuming process. You may be able to buy special health insurance for students or buy health insurance on the open market. Start early to make sure you have time to research your choices and file paperwork.1-2

Find a new healthcare team

If you go away to college, you may need to find a new rheumatologist. You will still need regular follow-up appointments, including lab work and physical exams, in order to stay healthy. Look for a rheumatologist with experience treating lupus who also takes your insurance.

You should transfer your medical records to your new doctor and schedule an introductory visit just before school starts. Remember, it may take two to three months to get onto a doctor’s schedule, so make your appointment as quickly as possible.

Your current rheumatologist may be able to recommend someone in the town where you will be studying. Also, ask your current doctor if they will still see you during school breaks and holidays.

Once you are on campus, go by the student health center to see what services they may be able to offer you for free or at a low cost.

Make arrangements for your meds

Make plans for how you will get your prescription drugs at college. You may be able to fill your prescriptions on campus at the student health center, or you may need to switch to a mail-order pharmacy. Another option: Local pharmacies may deliver to campus. Regardless, you will need to make sure the pharmacy takes your insurance.

Legal protections for lupus patients attending college

Colleges, universities, and training centers that receive federal funds cannot refuse to admit a student based on their disability. What’s more, schools of higher education must provide special accommodations upon request so that your medical needs are met. Most colleges have an office for students with disabilities or accessibility office with which you should register.1-3

Any requests for accommodations should be made in writing and may be made at any time during the school year. If a request is denied, your medical team may be able to help. Or, you can report violations of Section 504 to the U.S. Office for Civil Rights.

You do not have to tell anyone that you have lupus unless you request accommodations.1

Common types of accommodations

Any student with a serious health condition, including lupus, has the right to request accommodations that allow them to be successful at school despite their health. Some common accommodations are:1-3

  • A parking pass that allows parking close to classrooms or dorm rooms
  • Taking fewer hours per semester
  • Changes to class attendance rules, such as the number of days missed or online attendance
  • Extra time for assignments
  • Changes to test dates or project deadlines if absent due to illness
  • Create a manageable schedule

    College is a wonderful time to make new friends and expand your knowledge of your major and the world. You may also need to juggle a job, dating, going out with friends, and extracurricular opportunities. This takes energy, which means you will need to quickly learn how to get enough rest so you can avoid overexerting yourself and bringing on a flare. With practice, you will learn to pick and choose your activities wisely, balancing class and study time while leaving room for fun.3

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