7 Essential Tips for College Success with Ulcerative Colitis: Ultimate Guide

College may be the first time you’re managing ulcerative colitis (UC) on your own. Finding a doctor near you and building a support system can help you navigate the condition at school.

Going off to college means having to think about choosing classes, making new friends, and learning how to navigate around campus. If you have UC, you may also need to figure out how to manage the condition away from home.

Many colleges have programs to help students with conditions like UC. Still, it helps to make some plans before you leave for school. Following these seven tips can ensure you have a smooth transition to college.

7 Tips for Starting College with Ulcerative Colitis
7 Tips for Starting College with Ulcerative Colitis

Ask about support services

Because many students have health conditions, colleges often have programs in place to help. Having the right support services and accommodations can make going to college at UC less stressful.

These may include such things as:

  • a flexible schedule with days off from class when your symptoms flare up
  • a special UC-friendly meal plan
  • extra time to turn in assignments and take exams
  • a private room and bathroom or a kitchen where you can make your own meals
  • rides to and from classes

Before classes start, meet with a staff member from your school’s Disabilities Service office. You may want to bring a letter from your doctor or gastroenterologist to explain why you need these accommodations.

It also helps to tell your professors that you have UC. That way, they’ll understand if you need to miss a class or turn in an assignment late.

Check your health insurance plan

Your college may require you to have health insurance. If you’re already on your parents’ plan, you can stay on it until you turn 26.

If not, you can sign up for an insurance plan at your school or through the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace. Find out what your plan covers and how much you’ll have to pay out of pocket for doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescriptions while you’re at school.

Find a UC doctor near campus

Going away to college may mean leaving the doctor who has been treating your UC. You can still see your doctor when you’re home on breaks, but it helps to also have a GI specialist to manage your care and refill prescriptions at school.

Set up a meeting with the new doctor before you get to campus. It can sometimes take weeks or months to get an appointment. At the first visit, go over your medical history, medications, and recent test results. Also, get familiar with the health services that are available on campus.

College life can be busy, but try not to neglect your healthcare. Put checkups, colonoscopies, and other medical visits on your calendar so you won’t forget them.

Build a support team

Your family and friends at home probably know all about your UC, but you’re about to meet a whole new group of people. Being open about your condition can be hard. While you don’t have to tell everyone you meet that you have UC, letting a few key people know can be helpful.

Explaining UC to your roommates will help them understand why you may eat different foods or sometimes need the bathroom right away. Sharing your condition with a few friends you trust means you’ll always have someone to talk to when your symptoms flare up or when you feel stressed.

Considering that almost 70,000 college students

If you have maladie inflammatoire de l'intestin (IBD) in the United States, you’re probably not the only person on campus with UC. Ask the Disability Services Center at your school whether there are any IBD support groups on campus. If not, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation may have a local chapter.

Set up a UC-friendly meal plan

Diet is an important part of managing UC symptoms. The switch from home-cooked meals to dining hall food could lead to symptom flare-ups. Your doctor or a dietitian can give you nutrition advice before you leave for school.

Colleges offer many different meal plans. Choose the one that best fits your needs. Ask the dining hall manager if they can accommodate any food allergies or restrictions you have.

You may want to keep a supply of IBD-friendly foods and snacks in your dorm room. If you’re allowed to have a mini-fridge or microwave in your room, you may also be able to prepare some meals yourself.

Scope out the bathrooms

Get to know the location of bathrooms on and around campus. Apps like SitorSquat, Flush, and Bathroom Scout can help you find the nearest public restroom. Carry around an extra change of clothes, wipes, toilet paper, and anything else you might need in an emergency.

Navigate social situations

Parties and dating are big parts of college life. They aren’t off-limits just because you have UC. In fact, having a social life can be good for your mental health.

You may need to be more careful about what you drink and eat when you’re at parties or out with friends. Alcohol can trigger symptom flares and interact with some of the medications that treat UC. Ask your doctor whether you can drink and, if so, how much alcohol is safe.

Check the menu before you go out to eat. If the restaurant doesn’t have anything you can eat, you might call ahead to see if the chef can make something custom for you. Or ask your friends if you can go somewhere else.

Navigating sex and relationships with IBD can be tricky. Some people will be more accepting of UC and everything that goes with it than others.

It’s up to you whether or not to tell a new partner that you have UC. You can get the conversation out of the way early or wait until you know the person better. You may have to reveal something about your condition if you eat out or you’re dealing with symptoms during a flare.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Starting College with Ulcerative Colitis (UC)

1. What steps should I take before going to college to manage my UC?

  • Contact your school’s disability services office. Discuss accommodations you might need, such as a flexible schedule, a special meal plan, or a private bathroom [1].
  • Ensure you have health insurance. Check if your parents’ plan covers you or explore options through your college or the Affordable Care Act [2].
  • Find a UC doctor near campus. Schedule an appointment to discuss your medical history and establish care [3].

2. How can I build a support system in college with UC?

  • Consider telling your roommates and close friends about your UC. This can help them understand your needs [4].
  • See if your college has IBD support groups. Connect with other students managing similar conditions [5].
  • Talk to a therapist or counselor if you feel overwhelmed by UC or college life in general [8].

3. What should I consider when it comes to food while in college?

  • Talk to your doctor or a dietician about managing your UC through diet. Get advice on suitable foods before leaving for school [6].
  • Choose a meal plan that accommodates your dietary needs. Talk to the dining hall manager about allergies or restrictions [6].
  • Consider keeping a stock of UC-friendly snacks in your dorm. You may also want a mini-fridge or microwave to prepare some meals yourself [6].

4. How can I manage bathroom needs on campus?

  • Familiarize yourself with campus bathroom locations. Utilize apps like SitorSquat or Flush to find restrooms quickly [7].
  • Carry extra supplies like clothes, wipes, and toilet paper in case of emergencies [7].

5. How can I navigate social situations with UC?

  • Be mindful of food and drinks that might trigger flare-ups. Consult your doctor about alcohol consumption [7].
  • Choose restaurants with menus that cater to your dietary needs. Consider bringing your own food if necessary [7].
  • Open communication with potential partners about your UC is essential. Decide when and how to disclose your condition based on your comfort level [7].


College life can be stressful for anyone. Having UC could amp up the stress level even more. It’s important to care for your physical and mental health while you’re at school.

Do things that make you feel good. Take walks. Practice yoga. Listen to music. Spend time with friends. And if you feel stressed or overwhelmed, you may want to see a therapist or counselor for advice.

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