National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Must Dos Before Applying to Colleges

It's important to take time to educate yourself on what exists for you at the colleges you are interested in and the communities that surround them before you start applying. The sooner you start your research; the better off you will be in the long run.
Here are some action steps you can take before applying to a college:

Research Psychological and Psychiatric Services on Campus

  • Most college Web sites offer an overview of their psychological and psychiatric services so it is helpful to start there to see what is available on a campus you are interested in. Also check out Ulifeline to access information about services available at colleges across the country. 

  • Call or visit the college’s counseling center to make sure it offers adequate treatment options tailored to your needs.

  • Ask whether the campus-based psychological and psychiatric services are free to students or if students must pay for those services.
  • Find out how many psychologists are on staff and make sure the school employs at least one licensed psychiatrist. With larger universities, multiple psychiatrists should be on staff.

  • Make sure the school has strict confidentiality rules to protect your health information.

Research Hospitals and Private Practices in the Community

  • Most campus-based mental health centers offer short-term care so it is important to find private practices near campus if you require long-term care.
  • Make sure to locate mental health providers in the community that will accept your insurance. Also look into discounted rates or a sliding scale for students at off-campus locations.
  • If you don't have a car, find out about public transportation for any off-campus appointments.

Research the Disability Resource Center

  • Find out about the resources the college’s Disability Resource Center offers for psychiatric disabilities. These vary greatly from campus to campus.
  • Inquire about the specific services or accommodations provided to students with mental health conditions (e.g. test rescheduling, extended deadlines, priority registration, reduced course load, class substitution, etc.).
  • Find out about the confidentiality policies of the school. Ask whether professors are informed of the specifics related to students’ disabilities or only about the accommodations that should be made for them.
  • Get in touch with students who are receiving services from the college’s Disability Resource Center to learn about their personal experiences at the school.

Research Policies

  • Know your rights. It is important to know what your rights are when attending college to ensure that you are receiving the accommodations you are entitled to, are not discriminated against and that your college’s policies and procedures are legal. Review the Campus Mental Health: Know Your Rights.
  • Understand the college’s privacy policies and what information they share, if any, with families, staff (including professors and instructors), campus security personnel, residential advisors, law enforcement and hospitals. 
  • Find out about the school’s policies for students taking a leave of absence as a result of a mental health condition, students experiencing a psychiatric crisis on campus, students whose mental health condition deteriorates so they present a threat to themselves or others and
    students whose health or welfare is in jeopardy.