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Considerations for Attending College with Cystic Fibrosis

If going to college is in your future and you have cystic fibrosis (CF), you should learn about your rights and your opportunities for financial aid. CF may throw a few extra obstacles in your path as you educate yourself for a career, but there is plenty of support available to help you.

Legal protections for cystic fibrosis patients attending college

Colleges, universities, and training centers that receive federal funds cannot refuse to admit a student based on their disability. What’s more, schools of higher education must provide special accommodations upon request so that your medical needs are met. Most colleges have an Office for Students with Disabilities which you should contact for help.1,2

Any requests for accommodations should be made in writing and may be made at any time during the school year. If a request is denied, your CF care team may be able to help. Or, you can report violations of Section 504 to the U.S. Office for Civil Rights.

You do not have to tell anyone that you have CF unless you request accommodations.1

Types of accommodations

Several types of accommodations are common for students with CF to request for health reasons. These are:

  • A single room with its own bathroom in the dorm
  • A parking pass that permits close-in parking
  • Fewer class hours per semester
  • Changes to class attendance rules, such as allowing attendance online or via video
  • Changes to test dates and project due dates if the student is absent due to illness1,2

Scholarships for people with cystic fibrosis

Many scholarship programs offer financial aid to students with cystic fibrosis. As you look for scholarships, don’t forget that you may be eligible for financial aid based on CF, but also for athletics, musical ability, scholarship, or being from a military family.1,2

Several organizations maintain lists of scholarships for people with CF, including:

  • Cystic Fibrosis Research, Inc.
  • Needy Meds
  • Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship Foundation
  • Federal Student Aid Information Center
  • National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators

You can also contact Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Compass at 844-COMPASS (844-266-7277) Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. ET, or email [email protected]

Planning to go away for college

Plans are the best friend of anyone going to college while balancing CF care. Here are some tips for fitting in the learning and fun of college, while preserving your health:

  • If you are moving away from home to attend university, you should contact the nearest CF care center at the beginning of the school year. This will be your new medical home if you need treatments or a health problem crops up.
  • Create a daily routine that works for you. You may need to avoid early morning classes in favor of late morning and afternoon classes. You will definitely need to build in time for daily breathing treatments and remember to bring enzymes and medicines everywhere you go.
  • Don’t overcommit yourself or let yourself get overly tired. Other students may be able to pull all-nighters, followed by a full day of club meetings and social outings. If you feel yourself getting tired or develop worsening symptoms, it’s time to rest. You’ll eventually figure out how much you can and cannot do.
  • Don’t limit yourself. Now’s the time to explore a new world and make life-long friends. Don’t let CF define your life, just live with it.1-4
Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: September 2019
  1. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Accommodations for College. Available at: https://www.cff.org/Life-With-CF/Transitions/Managing-My-CF-in-College/Accommodations-for-College. Accessed 6/11/2019.
  2. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Scholarships and Financial Aid. Available at: https://www.cff.org/Life-With-CF/Transitions/Managing-My-CF-in-College/Scholarships-and-Financial-Aid. Accessed 6/11/2019.
  3. 5 Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Things Every College Freshman With CF Must Do. Available at: https://www.cff.org/CF-Community-Blog/Posts/2016/5-Things-Every-College-Freshman-With-CF-Must-Do. Accessed 6/11/2019.
  4. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Managing My CF in College. Available at: https://www.cff.org/Life-With-CF/Transitions/Managing-My-CF-in-College. Accessed 6/11/2019.