Going Off to College With Diabetes

5 Tips from the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center

August 23, 2013

It is a time of challenge and change for anyone who goes off to college, but if you are one of the estimated 10,000 new college freshmen with type 1 diabetes in the U.S., starting college can be the adjustment of a lifetime.

“When we transition to college, our parents aren’t around; we have new friends, new adventures, new experiences. Diabetes takes a back seat,”” said diabetes educator Emily Coppedge, RN, BSN, who runs a popular workshop at the Berrie Center called Taking Diabetes to College. Here are five important tips from Emily to take with you to school to help ease the transition. Print them out and tape them to the mini-fridge in your dorm room!

1. Contact Student Health and Disability Services on your campus.

“In case you get sick, it’s good to have a point-person on campus who can work with your doctors back home,” said Emily. Also, the 504 plans from elementary and high school  that protect the rights of students with diabetes do not apply in college. Instead, you should register with their school’s Disability Services. If you have a diabetes-related problem (even one as small as having to miss a quiz), Disability Services will help you—as did the 504 plan.

2. Continue the good habit of checking your blood sugar before meals and at bedtime and continue to give yourself insulin at meals and snacks.

"Although this might seem like an obvious one, the change in mealtimes and bedtime and different daily schedules can throw people off," said Emily. “Just remember that it doesn’t need to be time specific as long as you stick to the rules.”

3. Make your roommate and RA aware of your diabetes.

“If they don’t have any questions, you don’t have to give them the whole spiel,” said Emily. “But they should know, at the very least, where you keep the glucagon.” They should also know not to eat your snacks and why.

4. Meet with your diabetes educator and/or endocrinologist prior to leaving for college.

“They want you to be successful,” said Emily, “Keep a card with their phone numbers on it and don’t be afraid to call.”

5. Consider using a 90-day supply for insulin and strips.  

Ordering supplies once a month may have worked when Mom and Dad were responsible for your supplies; not so much in college. “We have found that 90 days' worth of supplies works best for college students, especially if they are leaving home for the first time. That way they’ll have enough supplies to get them through until they return home for breaks like Thanksgiving vacation.”

By taking into account these 5 simple tips, the transition to college with diabetes should be seamless and help you focus on this exciting, new adventure! Good luck!

This article originally appeared on the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center website.