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Year 12 is Over- Higher Education with CF

Finishing school is exciting but can be frightening or overwhelming. You are not alone, whether you have cystic fibrosis (CF) or not.

Things to consider when thinking about higher education

  1. Most people don’t know what they want to do when they leave school.
  2. Choosing the right course is not all about marks. Think about part time study if it will be easier for you to manage treatment. Consider if the course is made up of modules that could be easily done if you had time off during the semester. Having lectures available online may be a priority.
  3. Location – It is important to consider what is influencing you. It is common for people to enrol in a course simply because it is based where their friends are going. Travel time will be important if you need extra treatment if unwell.
  4. Timetable/schedule – It might not be wise to select early morning classes if there are other options available. This will allow time to do your airway clearance before class. Try to select a timetable that does not involve long distances across campus between lectures/labs.
  5. If you decide on a gap year, use it wisely. Try to get some experience in a field of interest or related to your planned career.

Looking for something to do in your gap year? Check out the link to The Green Army below:

Flexible study options

There are many options available in a variety of study modes. Using different study modes may allow your study to fit in with your lifestyle and treatment load.

Apart from full time and part time options, other pathways are available:

  • External studies/distance education – this may be something worth considering. This type of education means that usually students are not required to be physically present in the classroom. This will result in more freedom to study when and where you want. Some programs will still require some face to face contact. It would be ideal if materials are available online and lectures are downloadable.
  • Summer school – classes may be available in the summer period when your health may be better.

Find out more about online learning options in the links below:

Support for students with a medical condition

Higher education institutions provide free services and a range of support for students with a medical condition. The variation between the health of people with CF means some people might not think they have a disability. However, the legal definition of disability is broad and includes medical conditions, physical disabilities, mental illness, temporary disabilities, illnesses or injuries (Commonwealth Discrimination Act ,1992).

Disclosing CF

Having CF does not need to stop you from chasing your dream of studying further. It may be difficult for you to tell people at university about your CF and it may not be necessary to give all the details. It may be worthwhile talking with lecturers and tutors about why the quality of your work may fluctuate. It is important to let the staff know how CF could impact on your study. You could say:

“I have a medical condition that requires some treatment in the morning before class. This means I would like to attend tutorials/labs that are run in the afternoon.

Advisors at the student support/disability services area at the institution will be able to help you gain assistance and support, especially if you are having difficulties meeting submission dates and sitting exams. These discussions and arrangements need take place well before the exam/assignment due date. You and your family can even talk to staff prior to enrolling.

There are useful online resources for those planning on further studies. Hannah, 19 years, has developed some YouTube videos that offer advice about developing a plan for talking to lecturers about missing classes because of CF or another chronic illness:

College with CF: How to be “normal” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PJHZc-0fVc

College with CF: Professors and absences https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY_LiPyFalE

Types of support

Some of the support that could be available to you include:

  • Accessible parking
  • Alternative test/exam arrangements
  • Assignment extensions
  • Accessible course materials i.e. online
  • Lecture recordings

Applications for support will need to have a doctor’s report. Talk to your CF team

Try to work around having flexibility in your study semester so that your treatment does not drop as you become involved in university life.

Article from RED Magazine, Edition 1, 2017.


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