Rates of anxiety and depression are increasing for students attending college. Trying to make it through the semester or even to keep going to college can seem impossible. Depressive episodes can take over life. You can’t do homework and then you miss a test. You think you cannot recover. You may feel like giving up. But there are resources to get you going again. You can succeed in college with depression!

As a disability services counselor working at a major university, I see a lot of students that struggle in college with depression. Many students visit the office of disability services for the first time after they miss classes. But most are able to finish the semester and continue their studies.

You may want to visit your office of disability services before you need services. I remind students that high-performance executives have teams to support them. Establish your success team before you need it. Here are four things that will increase your success in college with depression.

Ahead of Time

One of the key things needed to recover when you have an academic setback is to have information ahead of time. You need to “pre-make” decisions. Those decision will determine what to do when you have little motivation. You can even create a checklist or a “crisis kit” so that you can pull it out. You can do the following to make the valleys easier to navigate. If you like, you can call us to sit down and create a plan.

Picture of student visiting college or university offices that help you succeed in collegeLive your life but plan ahead for college with depression

We get it. You are not depressed now.

But four to six years is a long time! Create a list of folks who can help you.

If already know you have depression, register with the office of disability services. Find the counseling office and have an initial appointment. Take advantage of the tutoring center workshops.

Schedule all of your tests on a master calendar so you reduce last minute anxiety. Write down your professor’s contact info and office hours in the front of your planner each semester. Better yet, put it in your phone!

Finally, enjoy yourself, but make wise decisions. Monitor your alcohol use. Understand how it affects your medication. Try not to mix alcohol and sex. It helps you to maintain control and make choices that respect your values.

See your academic advisor every semester

Balance your course work with your advisor. Take a mix of easier and more difficult classes. You don’t have to follow your degree plan semester by semester, but some classes require others before you can take them. Don’t skip prerequisite classes.

Defer a few classes that challenge you until a future semester. Then arrange tutoring ahead of time. Finally, consider taking only 12 hours a semester. Consider taking an extra year so that you reduce stress.

Check out the Office of Disability Services

Every college campus has such an office. Yes, depression can count as a disability.

To get started, obtain a letter stating that you have a disability. You can get one from  your doctor or mental health care provider. Explore if academic accommodations are right for you. Check out what other services they have to offer.

You can also arrange for a reduced course load, like nine hours, to count as full time. This is usually an accommodation arranged by the ODS. Be sure you understand how this will affect your future finances. You may need to stay in school longer. See the financial aid office and your scholarship office.

If you live on campus, you can arrange a single room accomodation to prevent roommate drama at no additional expense. You can also see if an emotional support animal can live with you in your dorm room.

Get familiar with other university offices

There are a variety of offices on campus to help students succeed. Seek out mentoring programs, tutoring (which you already paid), and counseling. Many of these services are no further cost to you than your student fees. Know where the health center is so you can get care when you’re sick and feeling down. Let your RA (residential advisor) know who to contact if you start acting down.

While you may not need tutoring this semester, get to know the center so you can get help when you need to catch up. Attend study skills workshops.

Most universities provide counseling to students. While these offices focus on short term counseling, they also provide reduced-cost referral sources. A therapist may increase your academic success.

If you moved to attend school and you have a psychiatrist back home, you want to find one at school. Sometime the university health center can provide you medication services. But you may need to search off campus to find a psychiatrist. Look before you need a doc since it can take six weeks or more to get an appointment.

Career with AD/HD or attention deficit disorder and some tips to increase your success on the job,What if you are in college with depression?

Work with your professors. If you have a designated person to help you, they can e-mail the professors and let them know you are struggling. Reach out sooner than later.

If you have complete most of the work for the semester, you can try for an incomplete, but you usually have to be passing the class. The incomplete can give you up to a year to get the work for the class done. Your GPA will not be affected.

When you are struggling and do not think you can return to class, check with your mental health team. After doing so, you can pursue a medical withdrawal. Get in touch with your Office of Disability Services and get the procedure needed to pursue a medical withdrawal. This usually requires you to retake the classes, but prevents you from having an F on your transcript for all classes. You do lose the money you paid for the classes most of the time, so consult with financial aid as well.

rawpixel-com-256641-unsplashFinally, remember that getting an education is a journey as well as a goal. One difficult semester need not derail your graduation plans. Establish your support before you need it when you’re in college with depression. Locate your mentors and give people permission to help you. Being interdependent by helping others when you can and seeking help when you need. It’s more emotionally intelligent than being independent. And it works better too.

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash


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