How to Talk Diabetes in College

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Throughout the month of September, the Joslin Blog is highlighting stories on going to college with diabetes. Be sure to check in next week for updates and tips on how to navigate college with diabetes! 

talking diabetes

Photo courtesy of the CDN

For many high school seniors enrolling in college for the fall, this is the first time they’ll be living and managing their diabetes on their own. Freshman year can be a big adjustment, but preparing in advance will help you tackle any changes and challenges along the way. We chatted 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 tips on how to make the college transition as smooth as possible for you and your diabetes.

Telling Your Roommate

Many teens are nervous about leaving behind family and friends who are familiar with their diabetes, and may be self-conscious about opening up to new roommates or friends. CDN suggests using humor to help diffuse any tension you might feel when telling people, and talking to friends and roommates about it like you would any other part of your life. You don’t have to give them an extensive medical definition of diabetes, but you and your roommates will feel more comfortable if they know the essentials, such as what high and low blood glucose are and how they should respond in the event of an emergency. Setting clear expectations also opens up the diabetes conversation. Chances are your new friends will be curious about your diabetes and will want to learn more.

Check out CDN’s “Talking to Friends & Roommates” resource for more tips on how to tell new friends in college about your diabetes.

Talking to Your Professors

A college classroom setting can be very different from high school. Lots of students hesitate to talk to their professors about their diabetes and then worry about experiencing high or low blood glucose levels during a test. Although many professors accommodate the needs of students with diabetes, some may have their own rules and are unwilling to bend them. Registering with Disabilities Services will override any rules that a professor has established in the classroom, and will help you reschedule a test if your blood glucose is too high or low. Every campus has its own office for Disabilities Services, so accommodations may differ among schools. Even if you do register with Disabilities Services, it is a good idea to still give your professors the heads-up about your diabetes so they will know that you might be using your pump and not a phone during class. At the beginning of each term, schedule a time to visit your professors during office hours so you will have their full attention instead of trying to catch them after class.

For more information on how to register for accommodations, visit the Advocacy Guide on CDN’s Website. You can also find a Professor Cheat Sheet you can give directly to your professors for all the diabetes information they may need to know.

Calling Home

College is the perfect time for teens to begin managing their diabetes on their own. However, parents are just as nervous as students are for the college transition, and it can be difficult for some parents to relinquish their share of the responsibilities to their child. CDN recommends establishing expectations for diabetes care prior to move-in day so students still feel like they have their independence and parents can rest assured that their child is safe. CDN’s Family Communications Contract is a useful example of how to create an agreement between students and parents about who will be in charge of aspects of diabetes care management, and how to lay down some ground rules about discussing diabetes. Another handy tool is the Move-Out Timeline, which you and your parents can use to assign responsibilities for diabetes supplies and make a timely plan for move-in day.

Check back in next week for more information on how to utilize diabetes resources on a college campus!

Going off to college with diabetes this fall? Make an appointment with our Young Adult Transitional Clinic at 617-309-4640 or our Pediatric Clinic at 617-732-2603.

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