Must Do’s Before Applying
Know Your Rights Before Selecting a College
Research Psychological and Psychiatric Services on Campus
- Most campus websites offer an overview of services
- Be proactive and call or visit to make sure they offer adequate treatment tailored to your situation
- Ask whether the services are free to students or if they are available for a fee
- Find out how many psychologists are on staff and make sure the school employs at least one licensed psychiatrist. In the case of larger universities, multiple psychiatrists should be on staff.
- Make sure the school keeps your records confidential from other entities, both within the college and outside of it
Research Hospitals and Private Practices in the Community
- Nearly all school health or counseling centers only offer short term care, then the student must find a practice in the community
- Find practices compatible with your insurance
- If you don’t have a car, look up information on public transportation in order to get to the clinic or practice
- Ask if they offer discounted rates or a sliding scale for students
Research Disability Resources
- Discover the breadth of disability resources the college offers for psychiatric disabilities, as they vary greatly from campus to campus
- Inquire as to what specific services are provided, i.e.: test rescheduling, priority registration, reduced course load, class substitution etc.
- Find out the confidentiality policies, especially ask whether professors and instructors are informed of the student’s disability or just the accommodations to be made for him or her
Campus Counseling Centers
- Counseling centers on campus typically offer excellent services when dealing with typical ‘college’ problems, such as: relationship conflicts, adjusting to college and academic problems. They also deal with anxious and depressed moods, substance abuse, and trauma recovery. Dealing with these problems is very important, as they produce added stress which may trigger the onset of an episode, or compound on a current one.
- However, there are certain drawbacks to most counseling centers:
- Again, they usually only offer short term care; the student must then find another place for therapy, usually a private practice. The counseling services typically assist in this
- Most counseling centers on campus are not equipped to effectively handle more serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorders etc.
Psychiatric Care on Campus
- There is typically a long wait to see a psychiatrist on campus
- Try and make an appointment as soon as you can, possibly even in the summer, prior to arriving at school. This will allow you to see a doctor earlier and establish a set schedule
- Nearly all psychiatrists on campuses take students upon referral only
- As with the counseling services, some psychiatrists also have a limit on the number of times a patient can be seen
- If you see a private doctor and your school’s medical center has a pharmacy, check to see if they will fill prescriptions from outside practices. Many times certain medications are filled for free as a result of the student fees paid each semester.
- Know what to do in case of an emergency
- Ask about emergency procedures are during business hours at the psychological services center as well as with a psychiatrist.
- A few schools offer a 24 hour hotline to call; however, most don’t, so be sure to have the number of a local hospital in case of a emergency during evening or weekend hours
- Smaller campuses can feel less overwhelming than a large university. However, there tends to be less psychological services on smaller campuses
- Large campuses generally offer a wider array of services. Nonetheless, even though more services are available, the wait is still usually long due to the size of the campus.
- If attending a large campus, try to join an organization, find a social group, and make friends, especially in the dorms. This will make the campus seem smaller and less overwhelming
- Compare the number of counselors and especially psychiatrists that are employed at the school to the number of students on campus. This is a good indicator of how long the wait will be, and shows the importance and dedication the school places on mental health
Making a decision
- The most important factor is narrowing your search to a few schools where you can see yourself living at for four years, where you will feel comfortable at and feel that you will succeed while you are there
- When looking at mental health services, keep in mind that you will need to find a balance
- You will most likely not find a program that meets your needs in every aspect of your care
- Keep in mind your specific condition and needs, and use that as a guide when making a decision