Getting an Emotional Support Animal for College Students: How Hard is It?

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 14, 2021

Getting an Emotional Support Animal for College Students: How Hard is It?

Getting an emotional support animal for college students has shown to have many benefits! Although college is often hyped up to be the best time in a person’s life, but university students are under a lot of pressure and stress. Did you know that in the United States alone 1 in 5 college students suffer from anxiety and/or depression? One of the most powerful tools to fight against these is getting an emotional support animal — a true companion.

Getting an Emotional Support Animal for College Students: Is it a Good Idea?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a cat, dog, or other pet who helps you cope with your mental illness. Licensed mental health professionals recommend people with anxiety and depression to get one.

There’s a simple reason for this. Studies have been done that show that the company of a loving animal does wonders in lowering stress levels and calming people down.

With an ESA for college students is not as hard as it seems. As a college student, you may be entitled to get an ESA and all the privileges that come with it. Having your comfort companion by your side will make your life a lot easier.

More than Just Stress: How College Students Can Get an ESA

As you may know, stress and anxiety are not the same things. Everyone deals with stressful situations, but not everyone struggles with an anxiety disorder. If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health problem, having an ESA can really help you on your road to recovery.

College is Stressful and Having an Emotional/Mental Condition Doesn’t Help

People who have been to university know how stressful it can be. Between finals, projects to turn in, class attendance, and homework, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It also doesn’t help that university isn’t cheap, which puts a lot more pressure on students to do well.

On top of all this, dealing with an emotional or mental condition makes college even harder. Suddenly, you can feel very alone and not know what to do to live a normal life. If you feel like this, don’t despair.

There are a lot of resources out there to help you with your mental health. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to, reach out to your school’s mental health department. If there isn’t one, teletherapy is an option. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help…

Take Your First Step to an ESA Letter

Obtaining an emotional support animal for college students doesn’t have to be difficult!

Besides going to therapy and counseling, getting an emotional support animal will also help you recover. But to get an ESA and all the benefits that come with it, you must first get an ESA letter.

An ESA letter is a very simple — but precious — thing. Only a licensed mental health professional who can practice in your state can issue you the letter. They will do this after assessing that you suffer from a mental health condition.

CertaPet makes this whole process easier by connecting you with a professional when you take the free, 5-minute pre-screening to see if you would be a good candidate.

After meeting you online, they will perform their analysis and, if you qualify as an ESA owner, send you the letter through the mail and electronically. The whole process is stress-free and quick.

Can College Kids Bring an ESA to Campus Housing?

Absolutely! ESAs and their owners are protected by two federal laws. One of them, the Fair Housing Act, states that no landlord can discriminate against a renter who has an ESA. This applies to campus housing as well!

In short, this law means that you will be able to live with your ESA on campus without being charged an extra fee. The university cannot, by law, refuse to house you because of your condition or your ESA.

The Student Stress Dilemma: How Stress Can Lead to Anxiety in College Students

There’s a reason why 20% of American college students suffer from depression and/or anxiety. Deadlines, money, job prospects… It can all be a little too much at some point.

Stressed Student or Anxious? What’s the Difference?

Stress is a natural thing. It is your body’s way of reacting to a complicated situation and it usually makes you act on it quicker. Anxiety, however, is your body’s reaction to stress itself, not to a situation.

Having a looming deadline can make you feel stressed. But if you’re a naturally anxious person, this may trigger you to feel crippling anxiety. You feel anxious because your body is reacting negatively to the stress.

Unfortunately, some people do have more tendency than others to be anxious. And for these people, college can drastically reduce their quality of life.

3 Reasons How an Emotional Support Animal Improves an Undergrad or Grad Student’s Life

You don’t have to feel so alone and desperate when you go through your worst anxious moments. An emotional support animal for college students is a really good strategy to cope with anxiety and make your life better.

  1. No more nights alone. Since a lot of people move away to attend university, it’s common to feel alone. No one likes to be away from their family, especially when they have a hard time making new friends. An ESA solves this. Animals sense when you’re feeling down and alone and they’ll keep you company. You won’t feel as alone anymore.
  2. A sense of responsibility. It might seem counterproductive, but getting an animal you must care for can help you fight anxiety and depression. Knowing you have to get up to feed them and walk them will force you out of bed — and push you to fight back against your condition.
  3. Comforting presence. No matter how bad your day was, when you get home and see your cute ESA, everything will be better. Sometimes, cuddles and affection are all we need to feel better again.

The Laws that Protect a College Student’s ESA

If your dorm or building has an anti-pet rule, you might feel confused about the Fair Housing Act. Aren’t ESAs pets, in the end? NO!

An emotional support animal is a lot more than a pet. Since it’s prescribed by a licensed mental health professional, they are seen by the state as not a pet. Pets don’t have the privilege of being protected by the same federal laws ESAs are.

The Federal Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that was passed a few years ago. According to it, no landlord can refuse to house you based on your condition or on the fact that you have an ESA. This would be considered discrimination.

On top of that, you won’t be asked to pay a pet fee, even if your living unit requires one. Emotional support animals can, therefore, live with their owners free of charge.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, but they’re minor and obvious. You’ll be asked to pay for any damage your ESA does to your apartment or room, for one. Your ESA will also have to behave and not be a nuisance or danger to neighbors.

To be covered by the FHA, you may be asked to show your housing provider your ESA letter. As long as you have it with you and you vouch for your ESA’s good behavior, you won’t run into any problems.

The Rehabilitation Act

This federal act was passed in 1973 and it protects people with physical or mental disabilities from discrimination. According to the Rehabilitation Act, federal-run programs (employment, economic assistance, and so on) cannot legally discriminate you based on your mental illness.

This is a very important law to you, especially if you’re on a federal scholarship program or receiving benefits. Your mental health condition is not legal grounds for not being supported anymore.

The Air Carrier Access Act

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is maybe one of the most important to have in mind. If you need to travel by plane, you are allowed to bring your ESA with you. This is also done free of charge — you will not need to pay a “pet fee.”

An airline cannot refuse you or your emotional support animal boarding if you comply with all their rules and have your ESA letter at hand. To make sure everything goes smoothly, you should call the airline in advance and let them know about your ESA. They’ll guide you to make sure your trip is as stress-free as it can be.

Emotional Support Animals Can Also Help Depression in College Students

Everyone goes through “the blues.” But being sad isn’t the same as having depression. Depression is a serious condition that is often treated with therapy and, sometimes, with medication.

If you have depression, you may be entitled to receive an emotional support animal. They are a huge part of therapy and help a lot during your recovery. For starters, they make you feel less alone. Being in college, away from friends and family can be hard. But having an emotional support animal with you feel loved and cared for.

Cuddle with Your ESA at Night: Sleep Deprivation in College Students

Not sleeping for enough hours seems to be a common reality among college students. Sometimes, it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done… Have you ever stayed up all night worrying about deadlines? If so, you know how hard it can be to get some rest.

ESAs help with lack of sleep a lot. Their presence is very comforting and it lowers your stress levels almost instantly. Having a cute ESA cuddle up with you during your most anxiety-filled nights will help you get some rest. Relaxing will be much, much easier…

Forget Care Packages for College Students: An ESA Could Help You a Lot More!

Care packages are what families sometimes send college students to make them feel less stressed and anxious. A lot of the times they have ready-made comfort foods, snacks from their childhood, books, movies… In short, they have comforting things inside to make students feel less stressed.

But sending care packages can become very expensive after a while. Plus, waiting for the box in the mail and having to deal with the paperwork if it gets lost make it a not-so-viable option. On top of all that, they only last a short amount of time…

An emotional support animal, however, has all the benefits of a care package but a lot more advantages. First of all, it’s a living thing that will react to your sadness and anxiety and do its best to make you feel better. Secondly, the bond you end up developing with them lasts for years and years — unlike a care package! And lastly, they will always be there for you.

Having an emotional support animal for college students is a great idea if you’re a someone who suffers from anxiety and depression. Animals are great at sensing people’s emotions — especially their owner’s! Cats, for example, will jump to your lap and purr at you. Dogs will lay by your side and give you loving eyes… ESAs really are great!

Get in Touch with CertaPet and Connect with an LMHP Today

Getting your furry assistance animal shouldn’t make you go through a lot of trouble. CertaPet does its best to handle all the boring and complicated parts of the process for you.

The first step is to take our short 5-minute pre-screening. This will determine if you qualify for an emotional support animal or not. If you do, we will connect you to a licensed mental health professional in your state who will then have a consultation with you.

If they do determine that you are entitled to an emotional support animal, they will write you your very own ESA letter. This letter will be what makes the three federal laws we mentioned apply to you and your ESA.

All in all, the process is very straightforward! Start healing today!

Common Questions on ESA for College Students

Can I live with my ESA in the dorms?

Do ESAs help with anxiety?

How can I get an emotional support animal?

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