Boston University Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Boston University Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Access to Higher Education for Students with Mental Health Conditions

This information is designed to help young adults who live with mental health conditions and their families prepare successfully for choosing, attending, and graduating from any type of higher education. Higher education is a critical pathway to meaningful employment and thus is an important academic experience that can be impacted by a mental health condition.  As many as 20-50% of young adults report experiencing a mental health condition during their college years and many students,’’ and their families are unaware of the opportunities and resources that can support a student to persist, to succeed, to thrive, and to graduate.  Any institution of higher education that utilizes federal funds is required by law to provide students with mental health conditions access to the same opportunities as students without those conditions. Access within higher education settings includes a broad range of approaches, programs, services, and reasonable accommodations.

Preparing for College

The decision to attend college is a very important one, and when you are living with a mental health condition, choosing the right school for you becomes essential. It can be helpful to consider attending a school that prioritizes student mental health.

The JED Foundation has worked with and identified colleges and universities that have comprehensive systems, program and policies that support student mental health, substance recovery and suicide prevention efforts.

Learn More: JED Campuses

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has developed a helpful guide for starting the conversation and understanding all the factors that are a part of making the decision to pursue higher education with a mental health condition.

Learn more: NAMI College and Your Mental Health


Access in Higher Education

Critical supports that allow students with mental health conditions to access the living, learning, and social opportunities their campuses offer typically include a broad range of approaches, programs, services, and reasonable accommodations. Every college and university has an office or officer designated to work with students through the process of requesting and accessing accommodations. It is the student’s responsibility to self-identify as a person with a mental health condition (considered a disability if the condition affects functioning in major life areas) to that office or officer and understand the process required to seek the supports and accommodations. The Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research created two tip sheets suggesting academic accommodations:

Learn more: Tools for School: Getting Accommodations at College (pdf)

Learn more: Tools for School II: Outside-The-Box College Accommodations (pdf)


Student Rights

It is critical that students understand their rights to reasonable accommodations on campus and beyond. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health and The Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research  offer consultation and support for college students with mental health conditions.

Learn more: Campus Mental Health (The Bazelon Center)

Learn more: My Mental Health Rights on Campus (UMass Transition RTC) (pdf)


Collegiate Wellness

Most colleges and universities have campus-based mental health resources and student organizations to support and promote well-being. As needed, campuses may refer students to community services and providers to support students’ needs beyond the campus’ resources. Students are encouraged to understand the student health insurance plans and coverage of off-campus resources. Additionally, it’s helpful to consider the support of student groups such as Active Minds ( and NAMI on CAMPUS ( as peer support, advocacy and community engagement and resources.  Check to see if your campus has a chapter and get involved!


Supporting Students

Campuses prioritize equal opportunity, access, and overall student success. It is a public health approach that emphasizes both prevention and treatment. The JED Foundation in collaboration with the Educational Development Corporation has developed a guide to inform how colleges and universities can strategically build this comprehensive public health approach of policies, programs, services and opportunities to support positive student mental health and prevent campus suicide.

Learn more: A Guide to Campus Mental Health Action Planning (pdf)