Two weeks before final exams during my third year of college, I had a fall in my dorm and was diagnosed with a concussion, which required me to visit an emergency room off-campus and have a modified schedule for turning in assignments and taking finals. I’ve had a few different people ask me how to deal with having a concussion in college and what college resources are available to them, so today I will be sharing my experience with recovering from a concussion in college, as well as tips from other friends who have had concussions as well.
All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
How I was diagnosed with a concussion
I get disoriented when I am exposed to prolonged strobe or flashing lights due to a secondary neurological condition, and ended up falling in my dorm bathroom when there was a power outage that caused the lights to rapidly flicker. When I realized that I was having trouble getting up and that my head hurt, I asked my Amazon Echo Dot to call campus security to come help me with getting up since I was alone at the time. I had added the phone number for campus security to my Alexa contacts, so I was able to make the phone call without having to grab my phone- something I highly recommend doing for students who live on-campus.
While the medical staff who checked my head the night I fell down said I likely did not have a concussion, the head pain got much worse about 24 hours later and I went to the emergency room near campus- one of my friends drove me after they noticed I was having trouble balancing. One of the most helpful things I brought with me was a brief medical history that had been documented on my phone so that the nurses and other medical staff could easily reference information- I now store this information in the “Emergency Info” section of my Android phone, which can be accessed without unlocking the device.
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Informing my professors about what happened
Trying to write an email with a concussion can be very challenging, but while I was in the emergency room I learned that I would need to recover at home for at least a week and be excused from classes. I sent an email to all of my professors letting them know I had been diagnosed with a concussion and sent a picture of my hospital bracelet with personal information redacted, and said that I would not be in class. It was important that I sent this email in a timely manner because it was so close to finals, and I knew that I would likely have to reschedule some of my final exams. My mom came to pick me up the next day from my dorm and I went home for the next ten days.
A different one of my friends got a concussion and had trouble writing a coherent email, so asked another friend to email their professors on their behalf. It is better to be proactive in sending a message letting professors know you will be gone than to be reactive and not attend class for days/weeks and not let them know why.
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Adjusting electronics for concussion recovery
I was told not to use any electronics with screens for a week following my concussion, and if I had to use a device I was supposed to adjust display settings to avoid hurting my brain. I kept using a few of these settings in the weeks following my concussion as well, which included:
- Dark/inverted screens, also referred to as high contrast mode
- Select-to-speak screen readers for reading text out loud, or audio reading apps
- Dictation typing
- Voice assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa for tasks like checking the time, listening to music, and looking up information
- Autocorrect for typing
Again, it’s important to avoid screens and using electronics as much as possible with concussion recovery per doctor’s orders, but I found these settings were helpful when I absolutely had to use a device and in the weeks following the injury.
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Submitting documentation to professors
Since I had told my professors I was being treated for a concussion in the emergency room, I was able to wait a week before sending documentation of my injury to request extended deadlines and taking my finals either remotely or at a later date. I sent a copy of the first page of my ER discharge papers with identifying information redacted- the page ended up showing my name, birthday, time stamps for when I was treated in the ER, and my official diagnosis. This was sufficient documentation to get an incomplete extension for my classes.
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Getting an incomplete extension
Once I was approved for an incomplete extension in each of my classes, I had up until the sixth week of the next semester to take my final exams and finish up material for my classes. I didn’t work on any assignments while I was recovering at home, so I had to finish several assignments that had been assigned during the last few weeks of classes before I could schedule my exams. Students will need to request incomplete extensions for each class- incomplete extensions are not automatically granted for all classes that a student is taking that semester, and some students may not need incompletes for all of their classes.
Students who need additional time beyond the six weeks of the next semester can ask their professors to file for an incomplete extension, which gives them until the end of the next semester to turn in assignments. If a student does not turn in assignments by the deadline, the incomplete is converted to an F.
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Turning in assignments and taking finals
About half of my final exams were taken remotely during the summer, while the other exams were taken at the Disability Services Testing Center when I returned to campus in the fall. When getting ready to take my final exams in the fall semester, I attended office hours for a few of my professors to ensure that I understood the material, and ended up doing weekly tutoring sessions with one of my professors leading up to the exam, along with studying flash cards on Quizlet.
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Other tips for dealing with a concussion in college
- I already had a Disability Services file for my neurological condition, but if I didn’t have one, I would have qualified to receive short-term accommodations such as extended time, use of a scribe, or the use of assistive technology with a doctor’s note
- If I was recovering from a concussion on campus, I would have also qualified to receive meal delivery from the dining hall, which is included with the cost of a student dining plan. These are sometimes referrred to as “sick meals” and are delivered by dining or housing staff
- Some students may benefit from wearing tinted non-polarized glasses while recovering from a concussion to help with light sensitivity, which are available with or without a prescription