College students are at a unique risk for disordered eating due to the new and stressful academic and social environment. Nationwide, 10-20% of female college students and 4-10% of male college students meet criteria for an eating disorder . So, what is the best way of choosing a college for your daughter?
Knowing these statistics can be scary for a parent supporting a daughter healing from an eating disorder. It is hard enough to let your “baby girl” out into the world, especially if you have already watched her struggle to combat a harrowing eating disorder.
Understanding the fears and challenges that finding the right college creates for those in eating disorder recovery and their parents is difficult.
The National Eating Disorder Association conducted a study to “identify what services and programs are important and available on college and university campuses around the country for students struggling with, recovering from, and at risk of developing eating disorders and related body image issues .”
- A counseling center
- Eating disorder screenings
- Support groups
- Eating disorder workshops
- Eating disorder education coordinators
- Eating disorder courses
- Residence life programs
- Peer advisors
- Eating disorder screenings
- Eating disorder prevention programs for athletes
- Library resources 
The study found that there is a bit of a difference between what resources and services college campuses offer versus what recovering or struggling people ranked as the most important or useful resources/services.
Most colleges were offering an on-staff therapist/psychiatrist with a specialization in eating disorders, individual psychotherapy, pamphlets or information sheets available, and websites with information on eating disorders.
However, what the study found would be most helpful to students didn’t completely match with what is generally provided.
In choosing a college for your daughter, knowing what students report to be most useful can help you to narrow down college choices for your daughter as she continues her journey toward recovery.
Choosing a College for your Daughter that Offers Mental Health Providers with Eating Disorder Specialization
The important part here is the “eating disorder specialization.”
Most college campuses offer therapy services. However, that does not mean that these individuals are educated or at all specialized in eating disorder or body image issues.
As you and your daughter know all too well, understanding the unique ins-and-outs of eating disorders is crucial in providing appropriate treatment and support.
Maybe you’re lucky and have insurance that your daughter is able to use for her treatment. This isn’t always the case.
As such, it is helpful to consider a university’s policy on counseling services. Many universities include a certain number of individual therapy sessions in their tuition price and offer them at a reduced price after those sessions have been used.
Choosing a College for Your Daughter with a Nutritionist
This is where the list of what is offered and what is useful split.
Many individuals reported that their college campuses did not provide nutritionist services, let alone one with an eating disorder specialty.
A nutritionist can provide vital support and information to individuals with eating disorders and their treatment team. This is especially true as your daughter transitions to an environment where mealtimes and options have changed due to the collegiate environment.
Group Therapy for Students with Eating Disorders
Group therapy, again, is a service many reported being useful to their recovery in college, but that wasn’t reported to exist on many college campuses.
These groups provide important peer support that research shows are invaluable to eating disorder recovery.
It is helpful for people to feel less alone and stigmatized and to have supportive discussions with others experiencing similar challenges as them.
There are many factors that can be instrumental in helping your daughter maintain eating disorder recovery through the transition to college.
Read NEDA’s study (cited below) and research the services, support, and resources that prospective universities offer as you work with your daughter to find a college that will help her heal and grow.
Resources: Unknown (2019). Understanding eating disorders. BestColleges.com. Retrieved from https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/eating-disorders/  Unknown (2013). Eating disorders on the college campus: a national survey of programs and resources. National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved from https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/eating-disorders/.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published August 22, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on August 22, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC