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: Madison, 19
School: California State University–San Marcos (CSUSM), Class of 2018
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 13 years old. I was (and still am) going through “diabetes burn out.” However, I have become much more involved in the community, such as serving as the president of my CDN chapter, and I have learned about how I can help others like me.
Heading to college wasn’t difficult for me. I talked to other students with diabetes to see what doctor they were going to, and I finally found one who was covered by my mom’s insurance. The doctor is really great and recommends diabetes education for his patients. Wearing a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) helps me pay more attention to my blood glucose levels while I’m busy being a super student (18 credit hours, three jobs, joining a sorority and starting a CDN chapter this year). I also only live about 20 minutes from home, which is a big plus!
Through my involvement with the diabetes community and CDN, I have learned a lot about diabetes research, and that people living with diabetes have a great sense of humor. My favorite part is making new friends and connections and encouraging other students with diabetes to get involved.
My fellow CDN members and I are able to attend a diabetes conference and learn more about research and new management strategies. One our members, Gemma, even got an internship at the Diabetes Research Connection (a crowdfunding website for new scientists).
I would not consider myself a “closet diabetic.” I like finding other people with diabetes because it’s nice to be able to complain about my “bleh-sugar” when it does weird things for no reason at all. We share diabetes memes all the time. I tell my professors that I am diagnosed with diabetes because I have the worst luck during finals—my insulin pump always seems to malfunction in at least one class every year.
I try to make diabetes easy to understand for my friends and roommates. If they ask questions, I love answering them until they have a better understanding of what diabetes really is. I also try to break the stigma that if you live with diabetes (regardless of being type 1 or 2) then you must be fat and can’t eat cake. If people say certain jokes, I politely begin to educate them on diabetes—and they usually don’t make those jokes again. Instead, my friends and I make medically accurate jokes, like how our pancreas needs to start paying rent if it’s not going to work.
I wear my OmniPod on my arm, so I get a lot of questions about it. (“What’s that suction cup on your arm?”) Sometimes I give funny answers like, “I’m a cyborg.” Other questions I get often are, “What is the difference between the types of diabetes?” and, “Do you have the ‘bad’ diabetes?” My response is simple yet effective. I tell them that having type 1 or type 2 isn’t bad, and both are difficult to handle.
Right now at CSUSM, there are no educational programs in place for people living with diabetes. Once our CDN chapter gets university recognition, we are hoping to create a better diabetes community. We hope to help students find their way to the university’s Disabled Student Services and get them the accommodations that they need.
One thing I wish I knew about diabetes management before heading out to college was how to develop a better routine. Diabetes burnout is a real thing, and it is so hard for me to get back into the swing of things. It is easy for me to get off-track with my diabetes management when classes and work and everything else I’m trying to do just overwhelm me. I can’t lie: My diabetes can be a huge headache in my busy life. But having friends with diabetes is helping me slowly gain back control.
If you’re a high school senior living with diabetes and getting ready for college, remember: You can do this, and there are others out there who will help you. You got this!
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.