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.
Together with the College Diabetes Network (CDN), the American Diabetes Association has been working to fill the information gaps for young adults living with diabetes and transitioning to college and work. The following are stories by college students with diabetes about their transition to happy, healthy college experiences.
Name and age: Katie, 21
School: Michigan State University (MSU), Class of 2016
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes last year at my nursing clinical when we were learning how to test blood glucose. So when I was originally researching universities, I did not consider looking at the health services—it wasn’t all that important to me at the time. However, I seemed to have been lucky in choosing MSU, because they have many health services and accommodations that I became aware of after my diagnosis. The Resource Center for Disability Services was very helpful in showing what accommodations I was eligible for if I were to need them, and they were very considerate of any extra needs that I may have because of diabetes.
My parents have been immensely helpful with the transition from home to college. They have helped me with scheduling appointments, finding doctors who would give me the best care and researching ways to make living with diabetes easier, especially while I was away from home. Both of my parents have always been my constant source for inspiration and hope. It is because of them I know that my transition back to college was easy and not at all stressful.
My health care team was also very helpful in my transition. We use a “patient portal,” which is a secure online messaging system where I can message my endocrinologist whenever I have any questions. This system has worked out well for me, especially with me being an hour away from home, and has helped build the great trust I have in my doctor.
When I first arrived at MSU, it didn’t provide any education programs to support people with diabetes or raise diabetes awareness. However, it does now! Our CDN chapter aims to raise awareness for people living with diabetes. We want to plan events and meetings to help educate the campus about a significant part of its population. Although the CDN chapter is just now getting started, I am seeing what a tremendous impact the chapter will have on our campus. We already have members who are very interested in supporting the chapter and have been instrumental in getting everything up and running.
My professors and roommates have been extremely supportive. My nursing professor, now our CDN chapter advisor, was actually there when I was in the emergency room getting my bloodwork done. This year, I did tell my current roommates and professors about my diabetes. I told them because diabetes can be tricky and it is always comforting to have people around you who understand why you might need to take a break to check your blood glucose. And in case there is an emergency, the group of people who you are around the most will be knowledgeable about your condition and can act appropriately for it. It certainly gives me peace of mind, knowing they can look out for me. Every student needs a group of friends, and professors, that they can trust, whether they have diabetes or not.
I started out by explaining the basics of diabetes, telling them that I need to take insulin shots in order to help my body function without a working pancreas. I also used the CDN Friends and Roommates page to further explain the basics of diabetes and what to look for in case of emergencies. I really found the resources to be helpful.
The biggest thing that I have seen on campus is the lack of knowledge about type 1 diabetes. I don’t necessarily get a lot of questions, and I think that is because people are hesitant to ask questions about this disease. Some people don’t really understand diabetes or think that diabetes is caused by eating poorly and not exercising. But I can tell that they want to learn more. If I explain my disease in ways that people can understand, the more help they can be to me and others with diabetes.
For incoming college freshmen or even high school seniors with diabetes, my advice would be to join the College Diabetes Network or any other student groups that help you connect with others! Or start your own chapter if there isn’t already one on your campus.
It’s just like why I joined the MSU Pompon team. Going into college, I knew that I loved my high school Pompon team; the sport had become a large part of who I am. I also knew that in college I wanted to be around other people who loved it as much as me, so I decided to try out for the university team. Connecting with new people who can understand and relate to some of the biggest parts of who you are is a great and comforting way to start the next chapter of your life.
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.
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.