I’ve yet to see an off-to-college checklist that includes: “Visit your campus Health Center and get established with a provider.” I know that finding an apartment, figuring out finances and scheduling classes are at the top of most students’ priority lists, but I would like students to put their health at the top of that list. Doing so will help ensure academic success and set them up for a lifetime of well-being.

In my 13 years in college health, I’ve helped students manage everything from chronic illnesses with no insurance coverage, bouts with the flu, depression, and the list goes on. After I treat them and get them connected to other campus and community resources, a common sentiment from students is they wish they had known about us sooner. So I want to take this opportunity to welcome all the new Knights and extend an open invitation to come see us, no matter how big or small your health concern might be.

Every year UCF participates in the National College Health Assessment survey. It consistently shows that students nationwide see stress, anxiety, sleep, cold and flu as their top impediments to academic success. We can help with all those things. UCF students are very fortunate to have the breadth of physical and mental health services that we have on our campuses, which include a comprehensive Counseling and Psychological Services department and state-of-the-art recreation center.

Our Health Center at 4098 Libra Drive next to the Chemistry building is staffed by professionals skilled in college health. What that means is that our health care providers practice prevention and are knowledgeable about the health risks facing college students and interventions that have a positive impact on their life. Whether it’s challenges with alcohol or drugs, a cold, weight loss or anxiety, our professionals are readily available to help students no matter what life throws at them. We also have two pharmacies on campus: at the Health Center and in Knights Plaza just west of the CFE Arena.

I expect your to-do list is already miles long, but make sure you add “Go to the Health Center” to that list. You will be glad you did.

James Schaus is a family medicine physician with UCF Student Health Services and associate director of clinical services. He is also an assistant professor at UCF College of Medicine. His research concentrates on reducing risks of alcohol use in the college population and other aspects of preventative college health.