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Getting Ready for College: 5 Things You Can Do Right Now

College

by Caroline Moassessi, FAACT’s Director of Community Engagement       

You said yes to the school of your dreams. Congratulations! Although these times are filled with uncertainty, one thing remains true: you need to be prepared.

Due to the pandemic, college departments might be short staffed and moving more slowly than you expect – which means you need to start contacting them right now.

To give you a jump start, here are five things you can do to prepare for a successful college experience. This is your moment to take control.

  1. First Contact. Call your college’s disability or academic support office ASAP. Explain that you are an incoming freshman and need to secure accommodations for your food allergies, asthma, or other conditions. Is there one office that coordinates accommodations, or do you need to speak to student housing and dining services independently?
  2. Housing. Scour your school’s website to learn about housing for freshman students. Does your college offer double, triple, or quad dorm rooms with a community or private bathroom? Are there suites or singles on campus? Discuss with your parents, a trusted adult, or your doctor whether you may need a single room to safely manage your health. Some students are eager to share rooms, while others might be safer in a single room situation. The right choice is the one that fits your health needs. Once you understand this better, contact the Housing Office to learn how to request a single or share your food allergies during the roommate matching process.
  3. Dining Services. Visit your new school’s website to review the eating options and meal plans. You might find food allergy information there, as well. Once you are familiar with the options, call the head of Dining Services. Even if the disabilities office coordinates with Dining Services, leave nothing to chance. Ask to speak directly to the person who is responsible for overseeing food ordering, prep, cooking, and serving. Explain your food allergies and ask how the school will address them. Schedule a call to review how each meal is handled. Note: Food Service staff change often, therefore, be prepared for changes when you arrive to campus. Touch base with your Dining Services contact to ensure all plans are ready to go!
  4. Establish Your Disability. Legally your food allergies are considered a disability, and this is the main reason your school will accommodate your needs – it’s the law! Ask what documentation is needed for you to receive accommodations, such as a letter from your board-certified allergist or other doctor. Then call your doctor now. Right now. Due to the pandemic, it may take a long time for your doctor to respond to your request. Call and email your request for the documentation needed for your school. Ask your doctor to send the documentation back to you so you can make a copy and ensure it gets to the right office at your college.
  5. Practice Self-Sufficiency. You can reduce college stress – and protect your health – by learning how to take care of your well-being long before you pack your suitcase. If you do not know how to do these things, now is the time to learn.

    • Laundry: Make sure you know how to do your own laundry – including buying allergen-safe laundry detergent.
    • Food Shopping: Know how to read labels and contact a manufacturer to learn more about ingredients. Figure out any danger points for cross-contact with allergens and how to safely handle them. Visit FAACT to learn more about the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). (Note for when you turn 21: alcohol companies are not required by law to label for allergens.)
    • Medical Visits: You’ll need to see a new doctor or visit your campus health care clinic for sick visits and possibly for medication refills. Learn how to complete patient intake forms and pay your co-pay at the appointment. Knowing your family health history is important.
    • Cooking: You may live off campus sooner than expected, so be prepared to cook, clean, and plan your meals. Ask your parents or friends for easy, healthy recipes. Learn how to properly wash dishes and store food. Power tip: learn how to use appliances like a slow cooker or Instant Pot, which make cooking even easier.
    • Talking to Adults: This may sound odd, but get comfortable calling and meeting adults you do not know. The most powerful tool you’ll have at college is good communication skills. People respond better when they are able to connect with an actual person. (We’ll talk more about communications in our next college blog).

Once you get familiar with your college campus, professors, and dining services, you’ll begin to truly enjoy and thrive in your new environment. Preparation is the key to success. Take advantage of this unusual down time during the pandemic to get ready for an incredible college experience!

Visit FAACT’s College section for more tips and information.