Tips for Transitioning to Post-Secondary School
Heading to university or college is an exciting adventure and freshmen often report feeling anticipation, excitement, happiness and curiosity. However, this major stage in life is often accompanied by other feelings, such as anxiety or uncertainty. For students with epilepsy, the latter emotions are compounded by questions about how this change will affect their symptoms, or moreover, how their epilepsy will affect how they perform in university. These feelings are perfectly normal and we’re here with several tips to help with your transition to post-secondary.
Practice Life Skills
This tip may be useful for parents and teens in preparation for university: in high school, most students can start to practice basic independent living skills that they can continue whether they move away to university or if they stay home. Teen responsibilities may include managing their own medications or scheduling their own appointments, learning how to cook, clean, do laundry, and accompanying their family on grocery runs. Furthermore, practicing a healthy lifestyle, getting enough sleep, and developing good study skills are habits that can help students cope with stress and change at any age. In the face of new routines and academic challenges, it is useful to have balance and for the home to be a peaceful retreat.
Open Up and Talk About It
It may not be an easy topic to discuss, but talking about your epilepsy may help. You will meet a lot of peers in college and university, and telling them about your epilepsy will let them know what to expect if you have a seizure. Sharing knowledge about what you’re going through helps build compassion and understanding, and may ease your anxiety knowing that someone else knows how to assist you. Furthermore, talking about your epilepsy to professors may help you with your academic endeavours. If your instructors know about your epilepsy beforehand, they may able to make accommodations or provide extensions on a project should anything unexpected arise, such as a seizure.
Stick to the basics AND your medication schedule
With so many changes surrounding you, it may be easy to forget your to take your medication or adhere to a schedule. Take extra precautions and set reminders on your phone, write it into your calendar, add it to your daily lists (or whatever might help you with remembering to take your meds) so that your dosage and medications stay the same to ensure the best possible health outcomes. In addition to taking your medications, it is also important to get regular, proper nutritious meals and a full night’s sleep.
Register with the health centre on campus
The majority of post-secondary institutions in Canada will have a student health centre on site and it is helpful to know where they are located, and pre-register as a patient in case you require access to their services. Many of these clinics will employ doctors, nurses and other staff that will be aware of how to help someone with epilepsy or someone experiencing a seizure. Furthermore, many of these health centres also offer counselling services. Epilepsy can be socially isolating – students see their friends living a different lifestyle: staying out late, drinking and not having to take medication and may feel excluded. These feelings and insecurities can lead to depression: almost 50% of people living with epilepsy are affected by depression. Speaking to a counsellor about these feelings can help.
See what other services are available
Depending on your symptoms and how it affects your studies, you may be eligible for extra assistance. Check in with the disability office or student services to see if they offer options that can help you in your studies. Many living with epilepsy don’t necessarily identify as having a ‘disability’, but these centres often advocate for those who experience challenges at post-secondary and can offer helpful services, such as note-taking/scribes or other accommodations. Furthermore, they may also be privy to information about financial assistance with tuition or adaptive technologies. Also consult with the financial aid office at your school: they may be able to give valuable information on how you qualify for other funding streams, such as federal grants.
Try not to worry!
Remember, stress is a trigger for seizures in some people. There is a lot of support in the form of friends, family, student services, and organizations that may help when needed, such as the BC Epilepsy Society. Know that many have walked the very steps that you are about to embark on and have been successful in their journey, so use that as inspiration!