Being sick in college sucks

Hannah Smothers

Throughout high school, I took pride in having a superior immune system. 

My attendance record was a beautiful, clean slate devoid of any black holes. I never had to depend on classmates to provide me with notes. My afternoons were never plagued by make-up tests. 

Maybe I wasn’t the most popular, the most athletic or the best at relationships, but if there had been a senior award for “Least Likely to Become Ill,” I would have won.

However, when I left the sanctuary of my relatively germ-free home and embarked on a life of dormitory halls and constant human contact, my once superior immune system broke my heart.

After coming down with strep throat for the second time this semester, I decided it was finally time to relinquish the identity of someone who is generally impervious to illness. I had to face the fact that something had happened between high school and my sophomore year of college that caused me to be just as susceptible to common sickness as everyone else. 

Was I aging? Was this what the rest of my life would be like? Was my metabolism going to be the next thing to go? Fear enveloped my everyday actions. I spent too much time reading paranoid musings of 20-somethings on Thought Catalog and began to think my life really might end within the next decade.

Surely I wasn’t the only one experiencing this change in health. There had to be others like me. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer several tips to college students to help stay healthy. On the CDC’s list are things like improving eating habits, getting seven to nine hours of sleep, having healthy relationships and maintaining mental health and lower stress levels.

Not abiding by the CDC’s list of recommended behaviors can increase college students’ odds of getting sick, and I’m not sure there’s anything more pathetic than a sick college student.

According to, another factor in the declining immune systems of college students is an increase in exposure to germs and bacteria. We may have all had our meningitis shots before moving away from home, but being around people 24/7 means being around foreign germs 24/7. 

Most college students also don’t usually stay home when they get sick. It’s not like high school where we can miss class and get notes from the teacher the next day, or make up that test we missed when we’re feeling better.

Now, missing class means begging classmates for notes that may or may not be good enough, and missing a test could mean dropping a letter grade.

Sick days were once an excuse to watch the romantic comedies and musicals you pretended not to like while your mom fed you grape juice and soup all afternoon. Now, sick days are spent falling asleep on the UT shuttle buses and hoping your professor takes pity on you and sends you home.  

Although it’s almost impossible to take a break from everyday activities when you become ill, students should try and take it easy. Not only are you endangering your own health, but you’re also frightening the healthy students who don’t want to wear surgical masks to class.