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Getting Started – Exploring Colleges: Student Checklist
Dream schools. Follow your heart, passions, and high school counselor’s advice! Once you have established the type of school you want to explore, use this checklist to help you learn how a college might support you in managing your food allergies. Do not be scared by the length of this checklist – not everything on it will apply to you. Pick and choose the best topics for your situation.
- Take an in-person or virtual tour and ask a few questions. If you don't feel comfortable asking questions during the tour, secure the admission officer's contact information for your state or area and email your questions or schedule a quick call. Most colleges appreciate students who are interested enough to ask additional questions.
- Does this college have a written food allergy management policy in place and on the website?
- Which office do you contact to discuss food allergy management as it relates to dining services and student housing?
- Who should you contact to learn more about food allergy accommodations?
- What type of food service is available? Is there one main dining hall, made-to-order outlets, or fast-food options?
Learn the Language
- Get familiar with food allergy terms so you can explain them to roommates, advisors, and friends at college.
- Learn what exactly anaphylaxis is, including signs and symptoms, and how others might use that term.
- Your EpiPen® or Auvi-Q® devices are epinephrine auto-injectors and are sometimes referred to as “rescue medications” because they’re your best shot at surviving an anaphylactic reaction.
- Learn the college lingo. Many colleges use different names for the same departments or functions.
- Colleges use different names for the same department. For example, Disability Services at one school may be called Academic Support at another.
- An RA is a Resident Assistant or Resident Advisor who will oversee immediate dorm room floors or areas. Some colleges use the term CA for Community Advisor or Community Assistant.
- An RD is the Resident Director, who oversees the entire residential area.
- RD can also refer to a Registered Dietician who oversees the management of students with food allergies.
- Some colleges might refer to food allergies as “anaphylaxis” and ask if you have anaphylaxis. Even if you’ve never had an anaphylactic reaction to a food allergen, be sure to include all your food allergies if asked this question.
- Start conversations with your parents/guardians and allergist to establish what types of accommodations you may need at college.
- Do you have other health needs, such as asthma or anxiety, which may require additional accommodations? (For example, an air conditioner so windows do not have to be left open, which could allow asthma-triggering allergens into the room.)
- Do you have environmental allergies like dust or mold? If so, older dorms may be challenging.
- Contact the school's Office of Disabilities Service to identify a contact you can speak to or email to learn if the school has established a food allergy management policy.
- Learn if freshmen must live on campus during their first year or if students can live off campus.
- Are you interested in living alone or with a roommate? Ask about the availability of medical singles.
- Confirm which department you need to contact to learn how accommodations are managed.
- Visit the Legal Considerations section of this toolkit to learn about your rights at college to receive accommodations.
- Many campuses offer a wide range of eating options. For example, there may be several dining halls, food service outlets, coffee shops, or even off-campus eateries affiliated with the college for you to choose from. Dorm rooms and suites may offer cooking options.
- Visit the college’s website to review dining options.
- What types of meal plans are available for you to choose from, and will those options offer you safe and nutritious choices?
- Email or call the dining services department director to inquire about how students with food allergies are accommodated.
- Some campuses prepare made-to-order meals, others label for allergens, while another campus may offer a unique Top 8 Allergen-free pantry or online ingredient information. Confirm options available to students.
- NOTE: Do not be discouraged if a campus does not have a food allergy policy in place or if their approach appears to be lacking. If so, meet with the Disabilities Director and ask how you can work with staff once you are accepted to that school.
- Many colleges are embracing food allergy management but others need support. Make sure you advocate for yourself!
- Many colleges are participating in food allergen training:
- FAACT partnered with MenuTrinfo® to make serving those with food allergies even safer for decades to come. MenuTrinfo’s AllerTrain™ program, launched in 2011, was accredited by ANSI in 2014 and is the leading platform in the food service industry. This ground-breaking partnership brought the expert oversight from and additional content vetted by FAACT’s Medical Advisory Board to achieve even stronger and clearer education for those who complete the training. ELearning and in-person training are available in English and Spanish, with additional languages on the horizon, to teach restaurant and cafeteria staff how to safely serve people with food allergies.
- Many campuses offer a wide range of housing options, but often freshmen are limited on choices. Email the director of student housing to learn about your living arrangement options.
- Ask about what type of housing is available. Single dorm rooms, shared rooms, small group living?
- Are there shared kitchen options for students? If so, would this option be safe for you?
- Ask if students can have microwaves, small refrigerators, or small appliances, such as hot water kettles, in dorm rooms.
- Decide if you might want a roommate. If so, ask how students with food allergies are matched.
- Ask if medical singles are readily available. Covid-19 has impacted housing configurations.
- Learn how bathrooms are managed. Are they shared by an entire floor, private in the dorm room, or shared by a limited number of students? Can you request no allergens in bathing products or cleaners, such as hand soaps in the bathroom or cleaning agents used in shared bathrooms or common areas?
Emergencies and Medical Management
- Managing food allergies includes two essential steps: reducing your risk by taking steps each day to prevent an allergic reaction and being ready to take swift action if a reaction occurs.
- Learn how medical emergencies are handled on campus.
- Do students call 911 or campus security?
- How long does it take to get help?
- Does your campus stock emergency epinephrine? If so, who is authorized to administer it?
- Who will help you during an allergic reaction in your dorm room, classroom, dining hall, library, or anywhere on campus?
- Is emergency medical care close by? Are there local hospitals with functioning Emergency Departments?
- Learn how medical emergencies are handled on campus.
- Suppose you are participating in a food allergy treatment, such as SLIT or OIT. Do you need to find a local board-certified allergist, or can your college’s health clinic help administer treatment?
- Are there board-certified allergists or other medical specialists near campus?
- Have you received an updated Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan from your board-certified allergist? This should be carried with you at all times (especially meals) in case of an emergency.
Help Your Parents/Caregivers
- Your parents/caregivers spent the better part of two decades caring for you. As you move on to college, they are basically fired from their jobs as your primary caregivers. They are passing the role of caregiver to you! Be patient and understanding, and most of all, listen closely to their tips!
- If your parents/caregivers want to discuss school location in terms of safety, hear them out. If you disagree, explain why.
- Invite your parents/caregivers to be part of the process, but you need to be the primary contact and person speaking to the college. If you are not comfortable talking to staff at the college, work with your parents/caregivers or someone else you trust who can help you develop the communication skills you need to speak to your future college about your food allergies.
Hear from Your Peers
- Listen to a short podcast featuring a college freshman and a college sophomore living with food allergies: College Life with Food Allergies on FAACT’s Roundtable Podcast.
- Follow @faact_teens or @faact.bipoc.teens on Instagram to connect with other students.