In 2019, my time living on campus came to a very sudden and unexpected close after I was diagnosed with a medical condition that made it impossible for me to continue living on my own. While this medical condition is now much better controlled and I can live independently a year later, I had to move home and no longer live in the dorms that I had called home for the last four years and four weeks. Here are my tips for filling out medical housing release forms to get permission to leave campus and get a partial refund for housing costs.
What are medical housing release forms?
Medical housing release forms are a set of forms that students will need to complete if they need to move off-campus for medical reasons. Some colleges may call these contract release forms, medical release requests, medical housing cancellations, housing agreement appeals, or other names. Regardless of the name, students are required to have medical documentation and answer questions about why they need to seek alternative housing or otherwise break their housing agreement. In some cases, the college may be able to provide students with alternative on-campus housing, but in my case, that was not an option as I already lived in disability-friendly housing and still could not manage my condition independently.
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When to start filling out a medical housing release form
I recommend starting to fill out medical housing release forms as soon as there might be a problem or reason to believe that living on campus is no longer an option. For me, this was a week after I was released from the hospital and when I received a definite diagnosis for what was going on- when I was discharged, we didn’t know for sure what was going on and I wanted to wait to fill out the form until I had a better idea of what was going on. I ended up moving my stuff out of my dorm a week after I started filling out the form, after talking to my doctors and professors to come up with a plan for the rest of the semester.
Examples of questions asked on the form
For students, examples of questions that are included on medical housing release forms can include:
- When did/will you move off out of on-campus housing?
- What is the problem and why is it significant?
- Did this problem start or present itself after signing the on-campus housing agreement?
- Prior to submitting this appeal, what have you done to try to resolve the problem?
- How will living in campus housing contribute to or cause this problem?
- If your appeal is approved, where do you plan to live?
- What is different about your new living environment that will not cause or contribute to your condition, compared to living on campus?
Mention issues with specific activities of daily living
One of the main reasons that my medical housing release forms got approved fairly quickly is because I mentioned issues with specific activities of daily living, such as difficulty with showering, getting to the dining hall, walking to class independently, and even getting out of bed. However, instead of just mentioning that I had difficulty walking to class independently, I wrote the following statement in order to show what I had tried, and how I made use of campus resources:
“I have done several different things to help with the problems associated with my new condition, which were not effective. I used a walking cane in addition to a blindness cane to help with balance, which was tiring to use when walking long distances or walking uphill on campus, which I have to do to get to many buildings. Using alternative transportation to get to class helped with some of the exhaustion from walking, but I still had trouble walking through buildings and finding my classes, and would still have intense vertigo during class from walking. Since I am unsteady on my feet, I used a shower chair in the bathroom which kept me from falling, but still made showering an exhausting task as I tried to do it independently. No amount of accessibility modifications can change the fact that the room constantly feels like it is spinning and that I have a great deal of trouble walking.
If I continue to live on campus, it will be impossible for me to balance accomplishing activities of daily living, maintain regular class attendance, and being able to balance my schoolwork. If I have four hours of usable energy a day, I have to spend those four hours getting ready for class, eating, walking to/from class, and actually sitting in class. Those four hours of energy are going to run out at some point and leave me unable to do at least one of the things I mentioned. In addition, if I need to seek medical attention, I do not have access to my long-term doctors who are familiar with my new condition and would not be able to receive appropriate medical care for my condition, as they are located several hours away.”
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Provide specific reasons as to why the alternative housing placement will be better
Prior to filling out the medical housing release forms, I talked to my professors about how I could take classes remotely while living at home with my family on the other side of the state. I was not relocating to off-campus housing and traveling to campus for classes frequently, so I had to articulate to the housing department why I was moving home and still continuing my classes. I wrote the following to explain my situation:
“If released from my on-campus housing agreement, I plan to live at home with my family. By living at home, I am able to rely on my
family to help me with activities of daily living that would normally drain my energy, and I don’t have to worry about walking everywhere. I can attend classes remotely from my bedroom, easily walk to the kitchen for food, and if there is a problem I can easily seek
medical attention from my long-term doctors.”
Some colleges may require students to write the address of where they plan to live, but my college did not require this.
Getting a doctor to write a letter
For students who are filing medical housing release forms, they will need to get a letter from their healthcare provider that answers questions about their condition and recommended housing accommodations/arrangements for the condition. I had my neurologist write a letter for me as they were the doctor who had diagnosed me with this condition and I had been a patient of theirs for many years, though if they had not been available, I would have reached out to my primary care doctor or similar provider.
If relevant, ensure that dining hall plans are canceled too
Dining plans and housing plans are not connected, so both plans are not automatically canceled if the student cancels one of them. Compared to filling out the medical housing release forms, this was extremely easy as I only had to send an email to the dining coordinator and say that I had filed a housing release form and that I was no longer living on campus. Within a week, I was issued a prorated refund for my meal plan.
Follow up with housing to ensure it is approved
When I originally received approval to be released from my housing contract, I was only released for one semester and did not receive a prorated refund for the other semester I had lived there. I ended up filing an appeal in order to get a prorated refund for the other semester and was successful, which in my case did not contain any extra information or doctor’s notes, but just confirmed the last date I had been on campus, which was two days later than I had written on my form- I thought my last day had been the 15th, but according to a database it had been on the 17th. The refund was visible in my student account about three days after my appeal was approved.
Summary of tips for filling out medical housing release forms
- Medical housing release forms are a set of forms that students will need to complete if they need to move off-campus for medical reasons
- Start filling out medical housing release forms as soon as there might be a problem or reason to believe that living on campus is no longer an option- preferably before moving out
- The forms will ask questions about the condition, if it began after the student signed the housing agreement, and options for alternative housing
- Mention specific difficulties with activities of daily living, such as why it is difficult to walk to class
- Provide specific reasons for why alternative housing will be better, such as not having to walk for food
- Have an established healthcare provider write a letter
- Make sure dining plans are canceled too, as they are not canceled automatically
- Follow up with housing to ensure the medical housing release forms are approved