When you first arrive at college it can be overwhelming. You’ve probably had a ton of information about college life thrown at you in a few short days. Orientation, finding your way around campus, moving into your dorm – it can be a lot!
One thing that’s really easy to overlook is info on student health services including your reproductive health care options. It’s easy to put it off, there's so much else to do! But it’s a good idea to get yourself acquainted with what’s available now instead of trying to figure it out in the middle of a medical emergency.
Here’s an easy checklist of things to look into now before classes take over your life.
What health care services does your campus offer and where are they?
Most universities have an on-campus health center. Where is it and when is it open? Does it offer walk-in hours or do you need to make an appointment. This is all important stuff to know so you can fit taking care of your health in with taking care of your class work.
Once you know if there’s a health center, find out what services they offer. This varies widely from school to school. Most colleges have general medical offices, counseling centers, and some kind reproductive health center - or at least a sexual violence response center. Some colleges go further and offer mental health care services, contraception, STI testing, a pharmacy or even an on-staff gynecologist.
If the campus health center doesn’t offer services you need, be sure to look into nearby providers where you can go get the care you need.
What do these health care services cost?
Whatever services your campus health center offers, you need to know what they cost. Some colleges offer health care to their students for free. Some require all students to either be on their parent’s insurance or to purchase a special student insurance plan. Other colleges charge students a small fee for each visit. Whatever the situation, it’s good to know ahead of time so you’re not surprised by unexpected fees or turned away when you need care.
The same goes for off-campus providers. Know the insurances accepted and fees for them too.
Know the ins and outs of your health insurance plan, including privacy
Like we mentioned, many students are either covered by their parents’ health insurance or have a health care plan provided through the college. In both cases know what these plans cover and where they’re accepted in the area. Most insurance plans have a website where you can search for providers by zip code.
In most cases, your health care details are private. But there are some exceptions when you share your parents’ insurance. If you’re concerned about a parent knowing what medical services you’re using like a birth control prescription or an STD test, look into whether your visits will show up as line items on their monthly statement. If you need to access services with privacy, look into out-of-pocket costs at your health center and what alternatives you have nearby. There may be free or sliding scale options for STI testing, pregnancy testing and contraceptive prescriptions in the area depending on where you are. You can find a Planned Parenthood health center near you, or check out the CDC Get Tested!website to find testing near you.
Know your campus’ sexual violence and rape crisis resources
Hopefully you’ll never need them but it is a reality that one in five women are sexually assaulted or raped while in college. Federal regulations require schools have policies and resources that are usually part of student health services. It’s a good idea to know what these are or at least how to access them. If anything about your college’s program is lacking or unacceptable to you, Check out RAINN to find alternative resources in your area.
Find your local Planned Parenthood health center
Staff at your local Planned Parenthood health center can talk with you and help you get the care you need. Whether you’re on-campus options are lacking or you’re already a Planned Parenthood patient and want to stick with the quality, professional, non-judgmental care you trust, you can search for a health center or call 1-800-230-PLAN for care when you need it.