February 14, 2022
We all know the hallmark phrase of the high school era ending: “So… Do you know what college you’re going to?”
No other question stresses teenagers out more than that one. Standardized testing, applications, resume building, deciding what major you want to study, where you want to live, what kind of college you like, etc, etc, etc. This whole process is already hard and complicated, however being a kid with a serious allergy is just another challenge tacked onto the college search.
It’s not the greatest experience when you find a college that you really like, that has the major that you want to pursue and is in the perfect location, but then find out that the only thing that is safe for you to eat is the grass in the quad.
The research that is involved with finding out if a school offers safe options is also difficult, since university produced sources don’t always give a credible analysis of their allergen dining, since they are obviously biased writing about their own school. A lot of information that I have to rely on comes from Reddit pages or independent sources that report on celiac safety at universities, which can be tough to find. First, you have to figure out if a school can even make accommodations. Then you have to compare the different accommodations that every school offers, since the dining program between schools is never the same. How do I know what will be best for me, being paired with a campus dietician or having a common-allergen free dining hall? Not only that, but how will I afford any other food that the dining hall may not offer, like gluten-free energy bars or other snacks, which can be pretty pricey.
This is the point where I would offer some kind of advice for this predicament. However, I am currently going through this exact problem as I write this, so I don’t really know the answer to solving it. I’ve known what I want my major to be for a long time, and I’ve had a group of schools in mind since the beginning of high school. However, being diagnosed with celiacs in the middle of freshman year threw me for a loop when it comes to the college search. There were a few colleges that were really strong contenders, but didn't offer the best food accommodations, therefore I had to painfully lower them on my list or kind of forget it all together.
Enough of the doom and gloom. Though it is hard and frustrating, thousands of celiacs go to college and graduate with degrees, and even go on to get masters or PhDs. Therefore, going to college with celiacs disease and getting your needs met is not impossible. After all, it is compulsory for schools to accommodate disabilities, which allergies like celiacs disease falls under, according to the American with Disabilities Act. No matter what school you go to, they have to help you in some way. Obviously, some schools do that better than others, so it’s up to you to find what you’re most comfortable with.
Like I previously mentioned, I’m going through this rodeo too. As nerve-racking as it may be, I know that I will not be dining on the potted plants outside lecture halls or having gulps of air for dinner. So my best advice I can currently give: don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.