Throughout the month of September, the Joslin Blog is highlighting stories about going to college with diabetes. Be sure to check in next week for updates and tips on how to navigate college with diabetes!
For any student, freshman year of college is both an exciting and nerve-wracking time. But for students with diabetes, college can be especially worrying as there is a lot to prepare for when you are managing diabetes on your own. Fortunately, colleges all across the U.S. now provide many diabetes resources for students to help them navigate the first year. We talked with The College Diabetes Network (CDN), a non-profit organization that provides peer-based programs which connect and empower students and young professionals with diabetes, for some advice on how to find and get involved in the resources that campuses offer for students with diabetes.
Do Your Research
Before you arrive on campus, or even if you’re just starting to look at colleges, doing some research on a school beforehand will help you get a sense of what aspects of your diabetes care you’ll have to prepare for. For example, if you’re looking at schools in rural areas, you’ll need to locate the nearest pharmacy and make a plan for how to deliver your supplies. During the college application process, the CDN recommends browsing for the many scholarships that are available specifically for students with diabetes. When you’re on a campus, be sure to ask about the essentials of your daily life, such as dorm options and food services as each college has its own meal plans and residence halls. You’ll also most likely experience a more sporadic schedule in college, which is why the CDN suggests making a plan before the semester starts of when to fit in exercise, eating, and other activities so you can maintain a somewhat structured daily routine.
Check out CDN’s Looking At Schools Guide for more tips on things to consider when touring and picking a college!
Reach Out to Student Health Centers
Student health centers are a great place to find resources on campus, but, keep in mind that not every health center is equipped to deal with diabetes. Before move-in day, the CDN recommends reaching out to your school’s health center and asking what services they provide and if they have experience with students with diabetes. Even if your health center is familiar with diabetes, you should continue to see an endocrinologist throughout the school year. Many students stick with their endocrinologist from home and make their visits during school breaks and vacations, but there are other options as well. “Find out if you can communicate remotely with your diabetes care team,” says the CDN. “Some students email, text, or even video call their endocrinologists while they’re away.” Other students may feel more comfortable with finding a new provider closer to their school. Talk to your endocrinologist and student health center about making a continued care plan in college that feels right for you.
Whenever you feel discouraged or frustrated with diabetes, it can be helpful to talk to people with diabetes who understands exactly how you’re feeling. One of the best ways to find other students with diabetes and get involved on campus is by connecting with a CDN Chapter. “Chapters are student-led groups that allow students living with diabetes to connect with one another, vent to people who get it, learn about the latest diabetes technology and gadgets, exchange tips and tricks for managing diabetes on campus, and so much more,” says the CDN. Support from a CDN chapter can mean different things for everybody, whether it’s having someone to call if you run out of supplies, or a friend to check on you when you’re sick. Each school’s chapter varies in size, functionality, and commitment, but the overall goal of a chapter is to form a student-led diabetes community that serves its members. Even if your school does not currently have an active chapter, the CDN can help you find one at a nearby school, or even start your own!
It’s perfectly normal to be nervous about heading off to college for the first time, whether you have diabetes or not. Colleges want to make your transition into freshman year as seamless as possible, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help or to take advantage of these diabetes resources. By utilizing these tips, you’ll be ready to take on freshman year and make the most out of your college experience.
Check back in next week for more information on how to navigate the dining hall and eating in college!