10 Things Mom Says to do at College


Editor’s Note: For more information on managing type 1 diabetes in college, sign up for Beyond Type 1: College Edition, our email series on all things college + type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Leaving you at the kindergarten door was hard on your momma’s heart. Helping you pack for college is downright brutal. As we are balancing our extreme emotions between being excited and proud for your first step into adulthood, and so sad because we will miss yelling at you to pick up your shoes or turn out the lights every night, we are also constantly making mental checklists for you at college.

Watching you head to college would be plenty difficult if you still had a stellar-working pancreas, but there are extra worries and concerns we carry because we know the demands your T1 will put on you. So have a little mercy on us when we text you a few too many times in the beginning. We are stepping outside our comfort zone as much as you are.

But if you would allow this mom to give you our wish-list, this would be the top 10. They aren’t necessarily in order, because let’s face it, we are too busy crying when you aren’t looking.

1 – Check your blood sugar

A lot. Make sure your glucometer or scanner is always charged and you are consistent with checking. Even though you have gotten pretty good at feeling the highs and lows, acclimating to a whole new environment can throw things off at first. For our peace of mind and yours, check.

2 – If you haven’t already done so, go to your campus infirmary/health center and register with them

The Head RN at our college’s health center asks the T1 students to make an appointment to meet the doctor and bring your health history so it can be entered into their system. This will ensure quicker care if there is an emergency and they won’t have to bombard you with questions when you are sick. This also helps you to know where the center is since you are having to learn the layout of the campus.

3 – Check for ketones

If your blood glucose (BG) has been a little high, check for ketones. If you are feeling a bit sluggish or unusually tired, check for ketones. If you are feeling nauseated or have stomach pain or have vomited, check for ketones. If you are feeling thirsty or have a dry mouth, check for ketones. Just anything out of sorts, please, please check for ketones. Ketone test strips aren’t expensive and knowing early on if you are developing ketones is powerful knowledge. One more time—check for ketones.

4 – Don’t ignore ketones

Just to piggy-back on my relentless rant of checking for ketones, if you do see any traces, don’t ignore it. Let your parent know immediately, so you can discuss what the next step needs to be. As you know, a build up of ketones can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and we do not want you to experience that. Especially if you are hundreds of miles from home.

5 – Be faithful in keeping snacks with you at all times for lows

I know it isn’t always convenient. And sometimes you eat your lows-stash simply because you crave a snack and it is there. Replace it immediately and keep stuff on hand for its intended purpose. Especially something close by your bed for those late-night drops. Again, you are going to be in a new environment navigating a new schedule with much less structure than the typical high school day. Plan on the possibility of some unpredictable BG’s in the beginning.

6 – Keep supplies stocked

Don’t wait until you are one day from changing your pump site and you are wearing your last one to ask for more supplies. Don’t use that last syringe or the last drop of insulin for a bolus and then call home with the request. You’ve gotta help a momma out here. Give us a little heads up that you are running low and are going to need more supplies. The distance changes the dynamics a little for us to get what you need. I know when your bedroom was 12 feet from ours, the supplies often magically appeared along with your clean socks and underwear. A gentle reminder ahead of time is not only a huge help, but also impresses the heck out of us with your responsible adulting.

7 – Don’t forget to sleep and get adequate rest

Just last year we were telling you to go to bed at 10 p.m. Now many of your study groups won’t even start until 10 p.m. Parties don’t get rolling until 10:30 p.m. And let’s face it, there is no one telling you to turn out your light and go to sleep. Freedom never tasted so sweet, right? Even if you were not a T1, this advice would be the same. Get some sleep. However, it is even more important because you are a T1. When our bodies do not get adequate rest, our immune system can suffer. And when our immune system is lowered, we are more susceptible to colds and illnesses. This plays havoc on your numbers and those darn ketones become a factor again. It is okay to say “no” sometimes to the party down the street or meeting up to hear that uh-mazing local band. Get your much needed zzz’s—and not during class.

8 – Make healthy food choices and hit the gym

At least sometimes. Despite how old you think we are, the infamous “Freshman 15” has been around since our college days. And it isn’t that we are afraid of you getting a little pudgy at college, but that we want you to be the healthiest version of yourself. Those late-night study groups are not without a creamy, fully-caffeinated coffee and yummy muffin (which is also breakfast) or a loaded, but super-cheap pizza. Even from home we can hear the fries calling your name in the lunch center. We want you to embrace all that college has to offer, including the carb-loaded feasts with your new friends. But this is a great time to learn the life-lesson of balance. Grab a friend and hit the gym a few times a week, it will serve you both mentally and physically. Challenge yourself to eat some veggies and a salad on occasion and find new ways to reward yourself for good choices that do not include food.

9 – Talk to your roommate(s)

Have the vital conversation with your roommates about type 1 diabetes. Especially if you are going pot-luck and are about to make a new friend (hopefully). Educate them on what to watch for if you become sick or what a low BG looks like on you. Explain to them, that while you are cool to share your food stash with them, there are snacks and juice that are off-limits and exist only for your lows. Give them a parent’s phone number to have in case of an emergency. Parents are often believers in “better safe than sorry.” Also, talk to your RA if you are in a dorm and show him/her how to use your glucagon (nasal glucagon or injectable) if they ever are faced with that situation.

10 – Do not forget for a moment, you are our hero

Everyday we watch you fight this disease and win. You don’t let it stop you from accomplishing goals and setting new ones. We know the challenges you deal with moment by moment sometimes, things your peers do not have a clue about. And yet, you persevere. You overcome. You make us proud. You are unbelievably amazing. You are simply our hero.

Read more of Beyond Type 1’s College/University Resources.

WRITTEN BY Kimberly Wright, POSTED 07/05/18, UPDATED 10/26/22

Kimberly Wright is family CEO, chef, chauffeur and group activity leader to her family of six. She is also a type 1 (T1) mom with a celiac-friendly kitchen. Kimberly is the author of two books, a Christian speaker for women's events, and a business owner. She holds a BA in psychology from the University of Oklahoma and in 2009 was named the National Young Mother of the Year by American Mothers, Inc. A member of the Beyond Type 1 Family Council, you can find Kimberly on Facebook or follow her @kwrighter on Instagram. When her kids are asleep you can find her sitting with her husband on the porch swing of their barn-red house.