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Going to college?

Hi, haven't posted here before, but am feeling so worried about my 18 year old son and if he should go to college. He is barely making it through high school, his grades are not going to get him into a good college, but we are hoping to hear back soon from his applications. He did already get rejected from one, but I wouldn't have thought that one a good choice anyway as it's a bigger school. The biggest problem is his anxiety is coming back again lately, something that has been mostly gone and we have just been dealing with the usual Crohn's symptoms. When he gets anxious all those symptoms get so much worse and he misses lots of school.
So am I asking too much to expect him to be like a "normal" kid and get a summer job and go away (not very far) to college? Most days he really wants to go, but sometimes it makes him very anxious and he had a panic attack and didn't go to school until noon yesterday. I am so worried about him, I think it would be a disaster if he didn't go, all his friends have basically ditched him when he got sick his freshman year and he is so isolated.
Sorry he is so stressed about it. Tagging Tesscorm, her son just left for college this year. Does he currently have a 504? Get in touch with the disability office at the college and they can write up basically a 504 although I don't know if that is what's it's called in college. I believe at one point reading about a special program at DePaul for students with chronic disabilities who could not always make it to class. I'll see if I can find the link. They can also help with housing (i.e. private bathroom, etc).
wow, thanks for this info, it is really interesting and helpful. Funny but we did go look at DePaul but he didn't apply, as it's too close to home for him! But also very big and congested and he wants to go somewhere quiet after growing up in an urban area. I thought a smaller school would be more accommodating also. But will keep reading these articles, thank you so much!


Staff member
My older daughter has arthritis (not IBD) but had a really hard time with college and eventually had to take some time off because she was flaring and we couldn't get her disease under control. Being home was very isolating and she was miserable but we really needed the time to get her health under control. Now that she is on Humira and methotrexate, she is in college and doing great!
She agrees now that taking some time off was the best thing for her because she couldn't have managed at school when she was so sick.
Does your son see a psychologist? Perhaps getting the anxiety and his Crohn's symptoms under control will make him more excited for college.
Definitely agree that getting in touch with disability services at college before school starts is a great idea. They helped my daughter a lot.
When my daughter was at her sickest, she also considered applying to our state school which is 45 minutes away so she could live at home and commute, just for a year. Fortunately, the meds kicked in and she did not have to, but could your son do something like that?


Staff member
My son did go away to university this past September and it has gone very well. He did register with the special needs 'department' when applying and, I believe, this helped him get apartment style residence (which allows him to have his own kitchen). He does share the apartment with 3 other boys but there are two bathrooms for the 4 roommates. I also had his GI write a letter explaining his remicade infusions and the possible need to miss classes. He is less than 2 hours away, so it's not too difficult for him to come home when necessary.

However, my daughter, who does not have crohns, had no interest in leaving home for school. Regardless of crohns, it may be that your son is not ready for that level of independence and, perhaps, this is creating anxiety for him?? Is there a college closer to home that he might be interested in attending?

Something else to consider (but I'm not sure if they offer this in the U.S.), many of our colleges and universities offer a 1st year program where no 'major' needs to be declared. So, I imagine you can take 'generic'-type courses like english, math, sociology, history, etc. and then choose a major for your second year. It may mean that some of your first year credits can not be applied towards your major but does allow kids to still move ahead with their education even if they're not quite sure what they want to do. A friend of my son's did Political Science for his first year, didn't like the school nor the program and, for his second year, moved to my son's school and is currently taking an 'undeclared major' year. And, another friend is interested in construction/trades but didn't know what area, so took a college course where the first year includes intro courses in plumbing, welding, carpentry, etc. and then he'll choose which area to continue with... Again, only mentioning this as it may be something that will lessen his anxiety??

And, as far as friends, both my kids have made all new friends once they started university. Most kids move to all different schools, programs, etc. once they finish high school, so most kids are in the position of being on their own and meeting new friends. The schools often have events where students can meet one another early in the year.

As far as a job... I do think it would be good for him to have a summer job but I think, in the end, I would temper it with how he is feeling. My daughter recently started tutoring high school students - this offers her quite a bit of flexibility. Perhaps your son can look for a similar type of job???

I hope some of this helps... it's a tough age with so many changes, decisions, etc. and so much tougher when they don't feel well. :( Good luck :ghug:
Thank you Tess and Maya, so very helpful. And Tess, the whole idea of a fresh start and making new friends is why I feel it is so important for him to go. Staying home with us would only further isolate him. He has some ideas what he wants to do also but here in the States the undeclared major is common. Funny my sister is in Ontario and my niece is same age as my son, and the application process is so different in Canada!
M is also talking to soccer coaches at these small colleges, he always wanted to play college soccer and had to struggle a lot to play soccer in high school. But I am always pushing him, otherwise he tends to give up and be an x-box potato. Just never sure if I am pushing too much, but if I hadn't he would never had made it to senior year.


Well-known member
There is more than one way to skin a cat. I hate the way the high schools around here herd everyone off to 4 year colleges as if it were a one size fits all. Some people do great in trade schools, some take a gap year and their experience with that helps them really define what it is they want to do. Do you have a community college near by. This would give him an introduction to college while staying home in case there are any health problems etc and I would imagine this might lessen his anxiety. They are way less expensive and most of the time the credits transfer should he decide to transfer to a 4 year school.

UGH! I hated that junior/senior year stress with my non IBD daughter I hate to think what it is like when you have the added bonus of managing a disease. I remember all the questions from well meaning people...where are you going next year, what are you studying and on and on. Of course it is stressing the poor kid out. Not to mention the evaluation of the apps!
I know, he already has such low self-esteem that to hear his friend got into a college he got rejected from was really hard. But at same time, he is a smart and curious kid who loves history and reading, so if he hadn't gotten sick, it would have been a no-brainer that he would love college. So I feel like I have to err on pushing too much, and hope he can have some success and build on that, instead of always worrying that he will get sick.


Staff member
The college app process is so crazy now, that getting rejected is pretty common and he should try not to feel badly about it or take it personally, especially given what he's gone through (but try telling that to a teenager…).
I think if he does want to go away and make new friends, it might really be worth it to try talking to a counselor or a psychologist about the anxiety. My younger daughter who has IBD has really benefitted from seeing a psychologist - she's much less anxious and sleeps much better.
Thank you Maya, we had a bad experience with a therapist before, and he hates talking about the Crohn's stuff. It's been such a long haul, he was hospitalized for school refusal in his sophomore year. Then hospitalized 3X for Crohn's in his junior year. I am going myself to talk to a psychologist next week who specializes in Crohn's patients and hope I can get him to come with me the next time. It's hard to be a teenage boy, he is pretty stubborn about things and insists on eating whatever he wants. We will get through this somehow, but all your advice helps on the bad days.
We are not quite there yet but I have been thinking and worrying about this issue as well. My daughter is in 10th grade. I am so nervous about her growing up and going away! We have decided when it is time to look at places that are not to far away. I hope your son can figure things out. The best thing I think is to keep the pressure low and let him decide.
My son will be headed off to college next year. I am letting him decide his path. Before dx I feel certain he would've headed for a large university. There was a period of time when his only interaction with friends was on Xbox live. He would occasionally have friends over to spend the night but he rarely went out.

Since changing high schools and his CD stabilizing he is out and about most weekends. But he has decided on a smaller school closer to home for his first two years. He has said that he really likes the small school atmosphere and feels it would suit him better. He's not sure of his major yet so he thinks this is the best route for him. His sister is at university so he has gotten a taste of the big college life and town.

I understand about the need to push, I felt that way at times too when it seemed C was isolating. I think at this point we've reached a happy medium...although that could change next week!ha!
I was diagnosed the last spring semester of high school. I was very sick through the spring and early summer and was really thinking I would not be ready for college in the fall. In july I was doing OK and decided I would try to enroll in the fall. Luckily I got into a university that was about an hour away from home so I could go home often. I also had an appt to myself which was very nice compared to a dorm situation.

So in august I started school and both semesters my health was kind of up and down at different times. I made it through the whole year and ended up with a 4.0 which was pretty good for me as I was a bad student in high school.

What helped me the most during the whole process was mostly my parents did not put any pressure on me about going and did not really have any unrealistic expectations of me. Honestly up until the week before school started I had not really made up my mind completely. I decided after orientation day to go through with it.

Remember that if your son needs to take a year off, it's not the end of the world. Or he can take a few courses at a community college the first semester for a lighter load. And even if you don't get into the ideal school, he can always transfer later. I ended up doing just that in my 3rd year. Since it sounds like your son is already anxious about this stuff the best thing to do is make it as stress free as possible. Make sure he does whats best for him. Communicate your feelings so he knows he won't disappoint you either way.
wow thank you Kel, you made me cry, as I never know the right thing to do, and I do put a lot of pressure on him. I am just afraid if I don't he will just give up, the anxiety does weird things to your psyche, as does the Crohn's. I will talk to him again about it, and I think the key is what you said about not disappointing me either way.


I'm doing a distant learning degree with the Open University. I get given books to work from and there are monthly online tutors which are done via the internet. I can also talk to my tutor and any other student via email or a forum. The only time I need to go out is for the exam (which also gives me 15mins extra for toilet breaks)

I'm sure if he is too sick to go to college this may be a good way to go. It does take longer, but I can have breaks in between courses, and costs about the same.

Online learning is going big these last couple of years. I prefer it as I am working so cannot afford to take time out to study.

If he cannot do what he would like there's always courses were you can get certificates for completing the course (with no exams) from here, and it is free :) https://www.edx.org/


Staff member
Just wanted to add that my daughter has found being close to home does help, because if she has a particularly bad week health-wise then she can just come home for the weekend and rest.
When I was 18 I had a really hard time talking about crohns to anyone, doctors family friends whatever. A lot of us have experienced similar anxiety/stress/worry as your son is now.

Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.


I've befriended a few people my age(ish) and its helped a lot. We don't have exactly the same symptoms but it's great to talk to others with the disease


Super Moderator
My two have had different experiences with university but overall I have pretty much left it up to them with where they went and how they progressed and I followed their lead.

My daughter, in remission, was adamant from the outset that she was going to the city to attend uni, 600kms away. It really was the making of her, she was able to establish her own identity, meet new friends and have incredible experiences. I don’t think I would be too far wrong in saying it was the best thing she ever did. After her first year she took on a job as the disability officer at the uni and did a lot of voluntary work with politics, so for the next two years she did a part time study load and last year completed her undergraduate degree. Throughout her time there she lived on and off campus, in shared accommodation and on her own. On her own became her favourite mode of living. She has now moved home and will do her Masters at the university that is only 20 minutes drive away.

My son started uni whilst at school so has always attended the local university. He was doing a part time study load in off campus mode when he became ill and was diagnosed. Initially he was determined to continue to enrol in the 3 units he had planned on doing and he did but before the census date he decided to drop two units and just concentrate on the one remaining. He did the same the following semester. He too finished his undergraduate degree last year and is now doing Honours. He has done part time for the last two years, since leaving school, tutoring privately and also for the uni plus marking assignments.

My daughter did not experience any major health issues whilst she was away so did not have any study issues. As mentioned my son developed Crohn’s after he had started his degree and I can’t fault the university and academic staff, he received fabulous support and guidance throughout his illness and hospital stays.

They have both had very positive outcomes with their chosen paths. One at a very, very large city university and the other at a much smaller local rural university. The most important thing is to do what makes your lad happy and what he is most comfortable with, that is more than half the battle taken care of. There are no wrong or right answers here, just what is most suitable right here and now, nothing is forever and if need be you can always change tack if needed. It is very much like Crohn’s itself…don’t ever become so enamoured with one treatment that you can’t see what is in front of your eyes when things go awry, look to the alternatives.

Dusty. xxx
Thank you Dusty, I can't imagine two kids with Crohn's, but I suppose you learn to accept it, something I am struggling to do, as it feels like giving in sometimes. Plus I know the anxiety is so related to inflammation, they really are just starting to understand the relation. So am hoping the Humira will start working more, as he was doing pretty well anxiety and other symptoms pretty controlled with the Remicade. I will try to check back with this thread when we get past this waiting to hear back from college stress period!