It’s that time of year when millions of students will pack their belongings and head off to their first year of college.  Changes in environment, routine, academic challenges, and new people can be stress inducing for many. That’s especially true for students who have diabetes.

These 10 tips can help you plan for and begin this new phase:

1. Tell your new roommate, resident advisor (RA), friends, coaches, and professors that you have diabetes. It’s important for those around you to know so they can help you in the event of an emergency. Professors should understand that you may need diabetes equipment or snacks while you’re in class. 

2. Teach your roommate or close friends about diabetes and show how they can help you. Educate them about signs of hypoglycemia and what to do if it happens.  

3. Develop an eating routine. College schedules can greatly impact your routine. Try to eat at the same time each day so you can compare your blood sugar readings. It’s also important to make an effort to maintain a regular sleep schedule.  

4. Keep an emergency kit handy. Prepare a “sick-day kit” with things like fast-acting insulin, saltines, Gatorade, and glucagon. Make sure you can easily access the kit. Also, keep pre-packaged foods in your dorm and don’t let your supply run too low.

5. Create a list of emergency contacts. This list may include your doctors, college health services, insulin pump vendors, insurance company, pharmacy, and a certified diabetes educator. Keep it with you and readily available.

6. Understand alcohol’s impact. Drinking is more dangerous for people with diabetes. Also, the symptoms of hypoglycemia and too much alcohol can be easily confused. Hypoglycemia can also occur after you’ve gone to sleep. For more information, visit the College Diabetes Network website:  

7. Register with disability services and/or a campus health office. These resources can advocate for you and help make sure your needs are met.

8. Find out if there’s a College Diabetes Network (CDN) chapter at your school. These campus clubs are a great resource for students with diabetes and offer great support. If not, think about starting one at your college. Learn more at  

9. Download the American Diabetes Association’s publication “Going to College with Diabetes: A Self Advocacy Guide for Students.” This guide is full of helpful information for new college students.  

10. Have fun! Enjoy this special time in your life. You may have diabetes, but it doesn’t have to stop you from attaining your goals and achieving your dreams. We wish you all the best.

Click here to learn more about the diabetes outpatient education center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

Jose Bernardo Quintos, MD

Jose Bernardo Quintos, MD

Dr. Quintos is the director of Hasbro Children’s Hospital diabetes outpatient education center and chief of the division of pediatric endocrinology.

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