Preparing for College

College is about new freedoms, but also about creating and maintaining healthy routines and habits when it comes to eating, exercise, and sleep. Getting these routines in place will serve you well through college and beyond.


Good sleep hygiene boosts energy, concentration, the immune system, mental health, and metabolism. Strive for 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. A few helpful sleep habits are to take a break from your phone for 30-60 minutes before bed and not scrolling while laying down, avoiding caffeine after midafternoon, and trying for a consistent sleep schedule no matter the day.


Fruits and vegetables are what we all strive for in a healthy diet, but sometimes reaching for those leafy greens can be difficult in a college dining hall. It’s important to eat 3 well-balanced meal a day and drink at least 50 ounces of water. To supplement, think about healthy foods you enjoy and keep them on hand for easy, nutritious meals on the go. Try finding good sources of protein like eggs, peanut butter, frozen cooked chicken breasts, and nuts to power you.

Physical Activity

Regular physical activity has great benefits for physical and mental health. As you transition from organized athletics in high school to more independent activities in college, making a point to find ways of continuing to be active is important. Knowing what activities are enjoyed and what a campus may have to offer is a good first step.

Mental Health

Approximately one third of college students suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Life changes (like going away to college) can have a strong impact on your mental health. Understanding how these changes affect you and what de-stressor tools work best for you will help you navigate all the bumps along the way. After all, it’s okay to not be okay, but getting the help and support you need during these times is even better.

Consider these questions when stress and anxiety creep in:

  • What types of activities re-energize me?
  • How much sleep do I need to feel rested?
  • Do I feel better after quiet time or time spent with people?
  • Do I feel better after conversations/time with people or with a little quiet time?
  • When I’ve felt stressed in the past, what makes things better (or worse)?

Get to know your school’s mental health resources for both yourself and for helping others who may turn to you. Also, know that the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available for support by dialing 988.

You’re never alone. Learn from the experience of our Teen Ambassadors, and never hesitate to reach out to your UPMC Children’s Community Pediatrics care providers if you have any questions.

Physical Health

Life is busy, especially when starting a new chapter of your life, but it’s still important to stay up to date with regular doctor’s visits. Here are some tips to help you manage your own health care while away at school. Remember, in a true emergency, don’t wait to seek care. Visit the closest emergency department.

  • If you are 18 or order, we encourage you to establish your own Patient Portal account so you can access your medical records, make appointments, request medication refills, and message your provider with non-urgent questions. You can also conduct video visits with your physician while you are away at school. Learn more about UPMC Patient Portals.
  • As an adult, it’s important you understand your insurance coverage. This means you should know who your insurance provider is, what type of plan you have, where you are permitted to access services like hospitals or labs. If you have any questions, you can call the Member Benefits phone number on the back of your card to assistance. Remember to bring your insurance card to all medical visits.
  • You will need to understand your medical history so you can communicate it to any new doctors or complete requested forms. This includes knowing what medications and doses you are taking, any allergies you may have, and all the names and contact information for any physicians or specialist you may see. This is another great reason to establish your own Patient Portal account. This information is stored within your portal account and can be easily accessed from your smartphone.
  • When you first arrive at school, make sure you find out what care options are available to you on campus, e.g., where is the closest on-campus health center. You will also need to know where you can have your current medications refilled. Establish a plan to either have your prescriptions refilled at home and mailed to you or find a local pharmacy that can help.
  • If you have a history of a chronic medical conditions or physical disability that require ongoing treatment such as, diabetes, seizure disorder, depression, ADHD, autistic spectrum, anxiety, or any other physical disability, please talk to your provider before leaving for school. They can provide you with additional guidance. It’s also a good idea to register with your college’s Disability Resource Office. This office helps with accommodations for any situation, and it is better for them to know about your needs ahead of time.
  • We all need support from time to time. It is important to continue to have a trusted adult caregiver as a backup in case you need help during this transition period.
  • Lastly, check in with yourself. You will undoubtedly be going through a major life transition when you arrive at school. It’s important to know where you can access mental health services on campus, if needed. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time to seek care by visiting your on-campus health center or connecting with your physician at home.
    • Overwhelming stressors/feelings of hopelessness
    • Lack of appetite
    • Inability to sleep
    • Using alcohol or other substances to help you sleep or get by
    • Loss of interest in doing things you once enjoyed
    • Worsening grades
    • Feelings of failure
    • Extremes of emotion (grief, sadness, anger, irritability)

College-Required Vaccines and Lab Work

Your CCP pediatrician recommends you receive the following vaccines before you leave for your freshman year of college.

Student Athletes

If you are a student athlete, you may be required to have a sickle cell screening done. Check with your school. If a test is needed, your CCP pediatrician can order the test for you.

Health Care Majors

If you are studying health care and will be participating in any clinical work or observations, you may need a TB test. If your program requires a TB test, your pediatrician can assist you in performing the test.

You may also need proof of immunity for hepatitis B, measles, chickenpox, and other diseases. This testing is done through the lab. If you are required to do this, it is best to complete the testing by end of July before you head off to school.