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Finding Healthcare Providers as a College Student

Last updated May 15, 2024

Taking care of your physical and mental health in college is essential! As you transition to college, learning how to connect with healthcare providers now can be beneficial in the future if you're in need of care and support. In this article, we'll guide first-year college students in finding healthcare providers and understanding the steps, benefits, and considerations involved.

A man in teal scrubs wears a stethoscope and crosses his arms - Finding a Healthcare Provider as a College Student

Establishing Agency With Healthcare

Being a college student comes with new experiences, autonomy, and independence. Much like other aspects of your college career, finding healthcare providers will require a degree of self-advocacy, the ability to identify your needs and speak up for yourself. Self-advocacy is an essential life skill that will benefit you in college, and a great time to start building it is by finding healthcare providers for times of need. You are responsible for your well-being, and taking the initiative to find the care you need is a great way to establish some agency and flex your self-advocacy muscle.

Connecting with Health Services on Campus

Most colleges provide various healthcare resources for students. For example, on-campus health centers connect students to primary care and counseling services that are either covered by student fees or are low-cost. When you're in need of physical or emotional support, stop by the health center to learn more about getting connected to the care you need. 

It's important to know that any healthcare you receive through a student health center in college is protected by confidentiality provisions under FERPA. This means that you own and have access to all of your medical information, and parents or guardians do not (without your explicit consent). Any care you receive is confidential and private to you. However, FERPA only applies to medical records maintained by your college. If you were to receive treatment from a hospital or physican not associated with your school, those records would instead be covered by HIPAA, not FERPA. 

Insurance Considerations

Many colleges require students to have healthcare coverage. If you're on your family's insurance plan, you will most likely be able to continue using it in college. (Be sure to learn if there are any restrictions to using your insurance without parental permission.) Campus health centers may be able to assist you in finding primary care providers off-campus or recommend specialized mental healthcare based on your needs.  

If you do not have access to health coverage when starting college, your school may offer their own low-cost plans for purchase or can help you explore coverage offered in local state Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces.

Seeking Care Off-Campus

You may also be able to receive care off-campus. If you're a student with health insurance, you can call your insurance provider or use their website to find in-network healthcare providers near you. If you don't qualify for any plans through the ACA state marketplace, you may consider exploring Medicaid coverage. If you're a working student, check in with your employer to learn if their offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides access to healthcare and counseling services. If you're searching for mental health care, organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Psychology Today can connect you with professionals caregivers in your area.

Choosing a Healthcare Provider: Important Considerations 

Consider the following factors when choosing a healthcare provider:

  • Education, training, and licensing: Ensure the provider is licensed and has relevant education and training. You can learn this by heading to their website or reading reviews of them online.
  • Specialization and services offered: Double-check that the provider's specialization aligns with your specific needs.
  • Treatment approaches and philosophy: Understand the provider's approach to treatment and their philosophy.
  • Insurance coverage: Before scheduling an appointment, be sure you understand whether your provider accepts your insurance and if your treatment will be covered by it. 
  • Available appointment times and co-pays: Align these practical aspects with your schedule and preferences.

Before seeing a new provider, it can also be helpful to prepare a list of questions to ask to inform your decision about whether to receive care from them. Finding the right match is key to setting up a good relationship and getting the most out of your treatment! 

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