Attending College with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) occurs when cells in the brain and central nervous system lose their protective myelin sheath. Like electric lines without insulation, cells fire randomly. Symptoms include reduced sensation in the arms and legs, tremors, and slurred speech. College students with MS experience difficulty earning a degree due to these and other symptoms.

Students with multiple sclerosis must advocate for their success in college. Fortunately, federal law mandates that schools provide accommodations to learners with a disability. The following sections cover MS fundamentals, school resources, and private organizations assisting degree-seekers with the condition.

Frequently Asked Questions About Multiple Sclerosis


  • Q. What is Multiple Sclerosis?

    Like other autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. The lack of myelin slows down or blocks the brain’s instructions to the spinal cord. Symptoms progressively become worse for approximately half of patients, lowering life expectancy and quality of life. Other patients experience periods of normalcy before symptoms relapse during an attack.


  • Q. How Does Multiple Sclerosis Affect Individuals?

    MS does not affect mental processes, meaning college students with MS possess the same intelligence as their peers. However, the disease’s effect on mobility and overall health puts these learners at a disadvantage. Blurry vision impairs the ability to read texts or follow a presentation. Lack of coordination and balance may result in serious injury.


  • Q. What Are the Signs and Symptoms of MS?

    Students with multiple sclerosis report weakness in their arms and legs, a tingling sensation in their neck, and uncontrollable tremors. These symptoms may lead to secondary complications, such as incontinence, epilepsy, and mood swings. Each affects not only learners’ health but also self-esteem. Some degree-seekers with low self-esteem feel isolated from their peers and develop depression.


  • Q. How Is MS Treated?

    A cure for multiple sclerosis does not exist. However, patients with the disease’s recurring form benefit from corticosteroid injections and plasma infusions. Both lessen attacks’ severity and promote healing. Other medications show promise in slowing the disease’s progression and lengthening the time between episodes. Students with multiple sclerosis should discuss different treatment options with their physician.


How MS Symptoms Can Affect College Students

Attending college with MS presents many potential roadblocks. For example, fatigue prevents learners from waking up on time and paying attention in class. Students with multiple sclerosis can ask a peer for notes or request a stimulant drug from a physician.

College students with MS may feel random tingling and pain throughout their body. These sensations affect concentration in class and the ability to perform well on tests. Learners can turn to their school’s accommodations office to receive modifications. They may receive more than one testing session or extended time.

Multiple sclerosis’ effect on mobility complicates walking between classes. Consequences include arriving to class late and feeling self-conscious in front of peers. Students with multiple sclerosis should leave for their first class earlier than usual and discuss their condition with professors. Some learners need additional accommodations, such as a wheelchair.

How to Be Your Own Advocate



Attending college with MS requires learners to advocate for themselves. Doing so involves understanding legal rights, using on-campus healthcare centers, and seeking outside support.


  • Know Your Rights

    The Americans with Disabilities Act requires public and private colleges to provide accommodations to students with a disability. Students with multiple sclerosis can contact their school’s accommodations office to qualify for these services. The process involves meeting with an advisor and providing medical documentation. Learners with approved accommodations work with their professors to implement them.


  • Take Charge of Your Health and Care

    College students with MS may need on-campus healthcare services, especially during a recurring attack. Learners can prepare for this possibility by researching on-campus healthcare centers and nearby hospitals.They can also obtain health insurance through the college or government exchange. Accommodation advisors can help degree-seekers with this process.


  • Know Yourself

    Some college students with MS need a support group to address the disease’s emotional and psychological effects. Support groups help students with a similar background express themselves in a safe environment. Maintaining mental health also involves selecting a class schedule that simplifies moving between classes.


Multiple Sclerosis Resources


  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society NMSS offers students with multiple sclerosis resources on treating the disease and living healthy lives. Support services include links to local MS groups and a directory of specialists.
  • Momentum Magazine Momentum Magazine provides articles on the latest research into multiple sclerosis, new treatments, and advocacy campaigns. Individuals with MS contribute blog posts detailing their experience and coping strategies.
  • Multiple Sclerosis Association of America MSAA hosts special events and fundraisers to raise money for MS research. Free resources include a telephone helpline, educational programs, and guides detailing how to navigate health insurance.
  • MS World MS World unites over 25,000 members, including college students with MS. The organization's website hosts free chat boards, social networking events, and informative articles. Other resources include wellness product reviews.

Portrait of Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and the owner of Broderick Writer LLC. He creates study guides, informational websites, and blog posts for clients in the education field. Thomas is also a published author of over 20 short stories and a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

See articles by Thomas

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