My College:
Health & Safety

Options for Student Health Care, On and Off Campus


In years past, most parents of new college students packed them off with Bandaids, pain relievers and maybe a thermometer, figuring they’d get a call when the first cold or stomach bug kicked in. Not in 2020! The COVID-19 pandemic has moved health care to the top of every parent’s list of concerns and conversations to have with their student.

As your student settles in on campus this fall, you can help them take the best possible care of their health and prepare for any situation that might arise.

First, it’s essential that your student stay informed of health and safety protocols on their campus, which may involve social distancing, wearing face coverings in public spaces, and other measures. Updates will be emailed and posted on the school website, so make sure you’re signed up for newsletters, too.

Second, make sure your student understands their health coverage and how their insurance works. You may have opted to keep them on your family health insurance plan or they may be covered by the school’s plan.

Here’s what else you need to know!

Where College Students Can Get Health Care

The Campus Health Center

In addition to treating illness (ear infections, strep, flu, etc.) and minor injuries, a typical campus health center may provide:

  • Routine lab testing
  • Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications
  • Gynecological services and contraception
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Radiology and imaging
  • STI and HIV testing
  • Allergy shot administration
  • Routine and travel vaccinations (including flu shots)
  • Dental and eye health services or referrals
  • Mental health services (though counseling may have its own facility)

The campus health center will refer your student to a local hospital or specialist if more care is needed. It’s easy for your student to make an appointment online or by calling ahead. Even students still covered by private insurance (rather than the school plan) can go to the health center for some basic services, which will be low cost or even free — you can learn all about it on the website.

Because on-campus health facilities don’t typically operate 24/7 or in an emergency capacity, it’s important to know the other care options available to your student.

Local Urgent Care Centers and Emergency Rooms

Research where the nearest urgent care centers are in relation to your student’s campus. These are a critical in-between for when your student needs immediate attention but isn’t experiencing a health emergency.

Say your student wakes up in the middle of the night with excruciating stomach pain. The campus health center is closed, and waiting until morning doesn’t feel like a safe or comfortable option. This is an example of when your student should visit urgent care.

Reasons to visit an urgent care center include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fractures or sprains
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cuts that may need stitches

In more extreme cases, there’s always the emergency room. Severe burns, broken bones, deep cuts, chest pain, head injuries, eye injuries, seizures and bleeding call for a visit to the ER. Make sure your student knows the location and name of the hospital nearest their campus. In life-threatening emergencies, calling 9-1-1 is the best option.

When Students Should Go to the Health Center

The campus health services website may include an FAQ section where students can check whether their symptoms mean they should be seen by a professional rather than continuing self-care on their own. If your student has had a cold and isn’t improving, or symptoms worsen, encourage them to go to the health center.

Students should take advantage of campus health services not only to maintain their own wellness, but to protect the entire student body. Colleges suggest students “stay home” (in their dorm or apartment) when sick and get well before returning to class. At the start of each term, your student should ask what to do if they miss class due to illness.

Any student who believes they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or has a fever or other symptoms should contact the health center immediately for instructions about testing, treatment and self-isolation.

More Wellness Support for Your Student

In addition to sponsoring one-time events focused on awareness of important health-related topics (suicide prevention, sexual consent, etc.), campus health and counseling centers schedule workshops and support groups throughout the year focused on:

  • Stress management
  • Relaxation and meditation techniques
  • Gender and sexual orientation/identity issues
  • Substance abuse
  • Nutrition and body image

Campus health centers are staffed with professionals who are well-equipped to handle student health issues, and the website is packed with information and tips.

When your student is sick or struggling, they should take advantage of campus health services. The health center and its website should be their first stop when experiencing any physical or mental health issue. Staff are there to help and, if necessary, refer your student to other competent local health professionals.

CollegiateParent supports you on your own personal journey during your student's college years. We answer questions, share stories and connect you to life on campus. Reach out to us at any time!
Find Your University
  • Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox every week.

    We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy and terms for more info.

  • Connect

    Don't Miss Out!

    Get engaging stories and helpful information all year long. Join our college parent newsletter!