When you’re facing the tough choice of attending college or going to addiction treatment, you may feel you don’t have room in your life for both. Consider this: If you aren’t sober and healthy, nothing—including school—is going to work well for you until you regain control of your life.Don’t become one of the many college students who doesn’t seek help despite having a serious substance abuse problem.1 If you ignore your need for addiction treatment, it could have a significant negative impact on your grades as well as other major areas of your life—especially your physical and mental health.The question then becomes, how can you go to treatment while attending college? How you decide to combine continuing your education with going to treatment will depend on what type of rehab is needed, and that’s based on the level of support you need to enter recovery.

Residential Treatment

If your addiction is at a level where you would benefit from round-the-clock care, taking a semester off may be your best option. You’re giving yourself the gift of achieving and maintaining sobriety to become a healthier, more capable person who can then successfully take on academic challenges.

Outpatient Treatment

If you’re entering an outpatient addiction treatment program where you attend meetings and counseling sessions for a few hours or days a week, you’ll have more flexibility to also fit college classes into your schedule. Since you’re not residing in a treatment facility during outpatient treatment, you have more schedule flexibility to attend classes.

However, don’t substitute outpatient for inpatient treatment if you need a higher level of support. A mental health professional can help you make the best choice to effectively treat your addiction.


By consulting with a mental health professional who has experience dealing with addiction, you’ll make a more informed choice that gets you to sobriety and helps you maintain it. Your first stop could be your college’s student mental health center. Addiction is a prevalent issue for many young people, and most colleges have services in place to help students. Some programs may refer you to off-campus treatment centers, and others may have services available right on campus.

Woman talking to another woman in scrubs

If you’d rather find out about treatment off-campus, see a mental health professional privately such as a psychologist, social worker or psychiatrist. These types of certified and licensed specialists can help you explore your addiction treatment options with the understanding that college is also a priority for you.

Support Systems in College

Whether you decide to stay in school while attending outpatient treatment or take a break and attend a residential program, it’s important to build a support system that you can count on for help. A positive support system can offer advice, help you learn new skills and hold you accountable to do what needs to be done.

Your support system can consist of your sponsor, mentors, recovering peers, friends, family, therapists and addiction support groups. Many colleges also offer comprehensive support programs to help students in their recovery journeys.2 The more support you have, the better the chances are that you’ll enjoy long-term recovery and find success in your college career.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2783958/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3134882/