College Planning Guide for Students With Mental Health Disorders


Enrolling in college as a student with a mental health disorder doesn’t need to be overwhelming or intimidating. Students who know their rights and learn how to ask for assistance can go on to complete their degree and have a positive educational experience in the process.

To help students find the assistance they need, we created this guide to explain the resources and accommodations most schools provide, and offer tips on how to access these mental health services.

Common mental health disorders among college students

The American College Health Association National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) provides colleges with the largest comprehensive data set on the health of college students. The survey covers a range of topics and is intended to “assist college health service providers, health educators, counselors, and administrators.”

Their latest assessment from spring 2021 provides a relatively recent look into the overall health and wellness of American college students. The following percentages of respondents reported experiencing problems with these common mental health issues at some point during the previous 12 months:

  • Anxiety. 28.9%
  • Depression. 23.4%
  • Eating Disorders. 5%
  • Bipolar Disorder. 2.2%
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 1.4%
  • Substance Abuse. 1.4%
  • Schizophrenia. 0.3%

How Colleges Accommodate Students With Mental Health Disorders

Colleges can make accommodations for students dealing with a mental health disorder, but it helps to know what you can expect upfront. Students who have received individualized education plans (IEPs) or Section 504 plans during their time in elementary, middle, and/or high school need to know that these plans do not follow them into college. After high school, it becomes the student’s responsibility to inform the college of their disability. Colleges are obligated to work with students who have disabilities and are prohibited from discriminating against them.

Most campuses have health and wellness centers for students as well as their own procedures for requesting accommodations or coursework adjustments. During enrollment, students should inform their college of the specific needs they have in order to get the proper assistance. Also, on-campus counseling centers are often free of charge for enrolled students.

Below you can learn more about the common resources colleges have for students with mental health disorders:

Health and wellness centers

Many colleges have their own health and wellness center on campus. These centers typically offer therapy, counseling, support groups, disability advocacy, and mental health education. Students may be able to receive prescriptions and over-the-counter medications there as well. The staff is often composed of psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, nurses, case managers, or peer support providers.

More information can be found here:

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