For young adults living with diabetes, preparing for college can be a difficult time. Managing diabetes while trying to make sense of a new world, social network and expectations can be especially challenging. You’re not alone! There are many resources in place to help support this transition.
The following are stories shared by College Diabetes Network (CDN) Students, involved in CDN’s Student Advisory Committee (SAC), about their experiences heading off to college, and navigating life on campus, with diabetes.
The College Diabetes Network provides programs for young adults with diabetes to help make their college experience safer and more successful. The American Diabetes Association is working with CDN to help further this goal.
Name and Age: Erykah, 17
School: Philander Smith College (Little Rock, Ark.), Class of 2019
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 11 years old and in the sixth grade.
I knew I needed to thoroughly research colleges and universities, because I had already encountered a case of discrimination. I was accepted to one university’s summer program and offered a scholarship. However, the director of the program took it away because I had type 1 diabetes and they didn’t want to burden the other students. The director felt I was not prepared for college due to my diabetes. But I fought to be in the program, informed the university of my rights as a student and proved myself capable. In the end I decided to not attend that school, but I hope they learned a lesson about the rights of people with diabetes and other disabilities.
After this incident I realized that as someone living with diabetes, it is so important for me to know about my rights and the available services and accommodations.
The resources provided by CDN to inform others about living with diabetes have been a tremendous help in my time so far at Philander. Whether through their website or educational programs, my local CDN chapter has helped me connect with others on campus who are also living with diabetes. It’s important to meet and connect with others who are going through the same experiences as me. Although Philander already celebrates Diabetes Awareness Month in November, I am hoping that with the help of CDN and the Project Blue campaign I will be able to have more programs and meetings on diabetes awareness to educate others.
Educating others about diabetes often starts with a simple question. For example, I’ve been asked about my insulin pump and why it is needed to manage my diabetes.
I have also experienced a lack of knowledge about type 1 and type 2 diabetes on my college campus. I have met many students who have no idea what diabetes is, or the difference between type 1 and type 2. Once in class, type 1 diabetes was being discussed and the instructor told the entire class that it developed when parents fed their children candy and sweets all their life. The instructor continued to say that we needed to make sure we ate oranges and apples to ensure we would not get diabetes. These statements really bothered me. That’s why I am glad CDN now has a chapter at my school to educate others and correct these myths.
When someone has a question or concern about diabetes, I try to explain it in the best way possible. I am happy to explain to anyone who is looking for knowledge. Sometimes I may even throw in a few jokes—I want them to realize that I appreciate how diabetes has shaped me as a person.
I chose to tell my college friends and professors about my diabetes, not only for the safety of myself but for the sake of others. It’s important to educate others about what to do in case of an emergency and to teach them about the devices we carry. My diabetes has been a struggle since I was diagnosed. They were surprised that I did open up and let it be known immediately. I am not ashamed; diabetes is just a part of who I am.
Before leaving for college I did not know how difficult it would be to manage my diabetes. It’s very time-consuming, and time management is very important. I have to be a full-time college student while managing my diabetes at the same time. I didn’t even consider that my life would change so much. The foods I eat, the amount of time I exercise, even how late I stay up at night all affect how my diabetes stays controlled.
Before I headed off to college, my mother made sure I had everything I needed, as did my health care team. My school is about six hours away from home, so we ordered supplies in advance and officially changed my address so that I could get certain items shipped directly to my college.
For high school students heading out to college, I would say do your best to get your diabetes managed and develop a set schedule before you even get there. College is extremely time-consuming; you are a student all day, every day. But when dealing with a chronic illness, you have to take time to take care of yourself. Once you arrive, do not be afraid to stand up for yourself, your health and your rights. You only have one body and you must take care of it.
The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a 501c3 non-profit organization, whose mission is to use the power of peers, access to resources, and grassroots leadership to fill the gaps experienced by young adults with diabetes and make their college experience safer and more successful. CDN’s vision is to empower young adults with diabetes to thrive in all of their personal, healthcare, and scholastic endeavors. CDN has over 80 campuses with 60+ affiliated chapters. Sign-up for more information here.
Diabetes Forecast magazine and the College Diabetes Network recently published a “Thrive Guide for Young Adults” with tips for doing college with diabetes. Visit diabetesforecast.org and diabetes.org for more information.