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 your 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 protected students with their rights with diabetes do not apply in college. Instead, they should register with their school’s Disability Services. If you have another diabetes related problem (even if it’s as small as having to miss a quiz) Disability Services will help you—as did the 504 plan.
2. Continue the good habits of checking your blood sugar before meals and at bedtime and continue giving yourself insulin at meals and snacks.
"Although this might seem like an obvious one, the change in mealtime 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.
“We want you to be successful,” said Emily, “and we are all here to make that happen. Keep a card that has all of our phone numbers on it and don’t be afraid to call.”
5. Consider using a 90 days supply for insulin and strips.
Ordering supplies once a month may have worked when Mom and Dad were responsible for ordering 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 by the time they return home for breaks like Thanksgiving vacation.”
By taking into account these 5 simple tips, the transistion to college with diabetes should be seemless and help you focus on this exciting, new adventure! Good luck!