Healthcare Questions to Discuss Before College

You may get anxious when it comes to going to the doctor alone, especially if you are used to your mom or dad accompanying you and handling appointments for you. Do you know how to set your own appointment or where to send your prescriptions?

We spoke to Garland Stansell at Childrens of Alabama, and he provided some important questions to ask before you leave for college.

Who is your primary care physician?

If you have an established primary care physician and you are staying in town for college, you should be fine to maintain your current physician (unless of course it is a pediatrician, then you will need an adult physician. Your pediatrician can recommend one). Odds are, if you are moving away from home for college, you won’t be able to use your previous primary care physician, so you will need to find one in your new city and schedule a new patient appointment.

What pharmacy do you use?

You will need to know what pharmacy you use and make sure there is a branch in your new city if you are moving away for college. If you used a locally owned pharmacy, you will need to find a pharmacy in your new city. When you go for a doctor’s appointment, you will be asked what pharmacy you use and their phone number to fill your prescription. Discussing this ahead of time will avoid confusion at your first solo appointment.

Do you know how to make an appointment with your doctor?

If you are setting a new patient appointment to get established with a primary care physician, you will need to call ahead and schedule that appointment through their office. There will be a substantial amount of paperwork to be completed before that first appointment (you will likely need your parent’s help in answering some of the questions listed on the paperwork about your family’s medical histories). If you are scheduling an appointment with your current physician, you will still likely need to call into the office to set that appointment, unless your doctor’s office has a patient portal that allows you to schedule your appointment online. If you go this route, call and confirm your appointment.

Do you know how to fill/refill a prescription?

Your healthcare provider may give you a prescription in writing that you take to a local pharmacy or by calling or emailing a pharmacy to order the medicine. You would simply go pick it up at the pharmacy after your appointment. For Refills, check the label on your prescription to see if your doctor included refills. If the label shows a number next to the “refills” section, that’s how many times you can get more of your medicine without going back to see your doctor. To refill a prescription, you can go in-person to the pharmacy and request a refill or call the pharmacy and request your refill. You will get a call or notification when your prescription is ready for pick up.

Do you know the name of your insurance provider?

Make sure you discuss with your parents who your insurance provider is and what type of insurance you have. If it is just health insurance, health and dental, etc. You may have separate insurance cards for separate healthcare needs (dental, vision, etc.) Ask your parents what your standard co-pay will be. A co-pay is the fee you pay up-front at the doctor’s office at every appointment that is not covered by your insurance. Ask your parent if you need to send copies of your receipts to them to file.

Do you have a copy of your insurance card?

Make sure you have a physical copy of your insurance card that you can keep in your wallet and bring with you to the doctor’s office or any other health-related appointment. If there is no way to get a physical copy of your card, have your parents send you a picture of it with the policy and group numbers visible.

Are you up to date on your immunizations?

You will be required to fill out an immunization form before attending a university. Each school may have slightly different immunization requirements, some more rigorous than others. Make sure you print the health check form from your intended university and bring it with you to the doctor’s office so they can make sure you meet all the necessary requirements.

Does your college/university have a Student Health Center? Do you know how to access it?

Almost every university has some form of Health Center, especially larger universities. Smaller universities may only have a campus nurse, but there is someone at the school who can answer your health questions. Ask your advisor about the student health center, what services they provide, and where they are located.


Vaccines are not just for infants and toddlers. In fact, there are important immunizations and boosters for teens that maybe recommended to help reduce the risk of disease. These may include immunizations for influenza, meningococcal meningitis, chicken pox, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus (HPV), and tetanus. And will most likely be required by your college or university.

Why are Immunizations Important?

In 2022, just hours after eating leftover rice, chicken and lo mein from a restaurant, a 19-year-oldfrom Massachusetts was admitted to the hospital with multiple organ failure and later had both his legs and all his fingers amputated. After further tests, he was diagnosed with meningococcal purpura fulminan disease, which caused his stiff neck, nausea, respiratory collapse, shock and organ failure. The meningococcal meningitis vaccine could have prevented this.

There will be more questions that arise throughout your time at college, but as long as you know these basics, you should be able to easily get answers to any future questions. If you know who your primary physician is, you can always give them a call or schedule an appointment to ask any questions. The Student Health Center is also there to be used, so you can bring your questions there.

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