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Back to School: College with Type 1 Diabetes

This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services. This article and the links contained in it provide general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this article is not a substitute for medical care, and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or registered dietitian.

College is a time for new experiences, making new friends, and learning how to be more independent! As fun and exciting the transition from high school to college can be, it can be overwhelming and stressful navigating a new environment with type 1 diabetes. Keep reading for tips on how to prepare yourself (and your diabetes) for college!

Preparing for College with Diabetes

Prior to beginning your college experience, it is important to discuss the college transition with your diabetes care team. A few things you may want to sort out could be:

Transition from Pediatric to Adult Endocrinology

Some pediatric endocrinology offices will continue to follow your care until you graduate college while others may require you to transition into adult endocrinology after graduating high school. Consider asking your pediatric care team how long or at what age you will be required to transition into adult endocrinology that way you can proactively find a new care team.

Frequency of Care Team Visits

If you are going to school out of state or a far distance away from your care team, consider asking them how frequently you need to visit with them and consider planning your visits during your college breaks. If they would like to see you more frequently, consider asking for a referral to a new care team that is closer to your school or if they would be open to virtual sessions.

Refilling Prescriptions

While you are away at college, you may need to change pharmacies for your medications and diabetes supplies. Some colleges have an on-site pharmacy that you can refill your prescriptions at, but if not you may need to find a pharmacy off campus. If you are using any mail order pharmacies to refill your prescriptions, consider where you will send your supplies and update your address accordingly.

Make a List for Emergency Contact Information

In case of an emergency, it is important to save the contact information for your diabetes care team, school nurse, and your parents that way your roommates or friends know who they need to contact if anything happens.

Disability Services and Accommodations in College for Diabetes

Did you know an individual with type 1 diabetes qualifies for accommodations to help provide support and assistance during their time as a student with the universities? In case of an emergency, it is highly recommended to register with the disability services center on campus so they are aware of any accommodations that may be required. Some accommodations may include eating/drinking during lectures, use of technology for insulin pumps/CGM, testing accommodations when blood sugars are not within range, and possible living accommodations.

Personal advocacy with type one is an important and useful skill to have while becoming more independent to ensure your safety on campus and in the professional setting.

Talking to Your Roommate about Diabetes

Moving in with a new roommate you may not know can be scary, but it's important to communicate and educate your new roomie on type one diabetes and what they can expect. Having a discussion about the symptoms of high or low blood sugar, gives your roommate the tools needed to identify when you may need help in the future. For example, when I have high sugars I feel tired and might ask that you stay quiet while if my blood sugar is low, I may ask you for help with opening up my low snacks because I could be too shaky to do it myself.

CGM and insulin pumps sometimes make noises others aren’t used to, but we may have become immune to. Giving them a heads up that your medical devices may make noises depending on your blood sugars may help prevent any sudden scares or mistaking the alarms for something else!

Don’t limit your talk to just your roommate. If you are comfortable, consider discussing it with your RA, neighbors, and classmates.

Doom Room Essentials for Diabetes

Having supplies galore in your dorm may seem excessive at first, but in reality it is okay to be over prepared! Here's a list of some supplies to have stocked in your dorm room:

  • Extra glucose meter and batteries

  • Glucagon

  • Ketone strips

  • Lancets, needles, alcohol wipes, syringes, etc

  • A mini fridge to keep your insulin prescriptions in

  • Extra CGM and Insulin pump supplies

  • Low snacks box (fruit snacks, juices, glucose tabs, applesauce pouches)

Creating a Community with Diabetes

Providing support for one another within the diabetes community is a great opportunity to meet new people and be there for each other during this transition. If there is no community within your campus, don't be afraid to start one! As a community, you can gather resources and tools to help create a great college experience together!

College Diabetes Network can be a great source to connect with other people with diabetes. Start here to join your campus T1D community!

For online support, join my Facebook group Strength in Numbers: Type 1 Diabetes support group for a safe and supportive community. Here you can ask questions, get feedback, make connections, and get helpful tips from other individuals with similar experiences.

Alcohol and Diabetes

As you move on into your college life now, recognizing the effects of alcohol on your blood sugars is crucial for your safety! You can read my blog post here on Alcohol and Type 1 Diabetes: Your Guide to Drinking Alcohol Safely and Responsibly.

Hopefully you found these tips helpful and give you an idea for what to expect when you go off to college. Let me know in the comments below if there is something that I missed!


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