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Class in Session: Epilepsy and College

"Before I went to school, I was nervous. Not so much because of epilepsy, but because I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to handle my course load"

EpilepsyAdvocate, Phil, discusses how he navigated through college with epilepsy, communicated effectively with friends and roommates, and mitigated stress.

Before I went to school, I was nervous. Not so much because of epilepsy, but because I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to handle my course load. 

Since college, I’ve been working a lot. Straight out of school, I went out east to work for a defense contractor. I stayed there a few years. After that, I went to work for another defense contractor for a couple years. Now, I am working as a web developer for a government website. I’m actually a lead developer for a project. Fixing bugs, developing new features that’s what I do. But I couldn’t have done as many things at work if it weren’t for the education I received.


My parents probably had the same concerns. Once I got to school, I selected electrical and computer engineering as my major. It was tough. Epilepsy made it a bit tougher. There were a lot of classes that I needed to take and many of them required much of my time. Partially because of my experience with epilepsy, I had to spend more time studying than the other students. My classmates seemed to “get it” quickly. I, on the other hand, needed a bit more time to process the subject material. Now stress wasn’t a huge trigger for me for seizures, but there were times life would be pretty stressful. I had to manage it. To ease the stress, there was one thing I did that other students in my classes didn’t do. After the tough courses, I would find some place quiet, go through what I learned, and review it for half an hour. If I didn’t understand, I would ask someone, and I wouldn’t hesitate to visit my teachers during office hours. And if I had a big test coming up, sometimes I’d create a fake test and time myself as if I was actually taking the real one. These types of things helped me reduce overall stress. You can see why I didn’t have much time for parties. But my strategy gave me confidence.


Time management and my study approach really helped cut down on college stress. What also helped me was having a few good roommates and a few good friends. Sometimes I just needed to take a break! It was so helpful. Speaking of friends, I let my friends know I had seizures and stuff, but I didn’t dwell on it. I talked with them once or twice about it. I didn’t ask anything from them as it concerns epilepsy. They helped me by just being who they are. We’d go out to eat, play video games it was just nice to have some people to hang out with. The types of seizures I have are called simple partial seizures. It feels like a really intense sensation of anxiety, kind of like you’re really stressed and uncertain about something. Think of the feeling before going down a steep drop on a really big roller coaster. When that is happening, I focus on a specific thought or task I am doing. That definitely helps.


If you live with epilepsy and are preparing to go off to college, are already in college, or are considering enrolling in college, try not to be scared. I know it can feel like it’s scary, but find a good support system someone to hang out with. I didn’t require official or special aid from my school, but you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it. Set your own standards. Don’t let someone tell you what you can or cannot do. I found methods that worked for me to reduce stress and share my epilepsy diagnosis with friends. Everyone will find their own best way to deal with stress in college. You are more capable than you think. Then, just give it a shot. You will never know unless you try.

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