College/University with Type 1 Diabetes
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).
So you’re making the huge transition from high school to college—congratulations! College is awesome, but whether you’ve been recently diagnosed or have had diabetes for years, navigating college life with T1D will require extra precautions. As in grade school, your college is legally responsible for accommodating your T1D needs, but it’s your responsibility to make your T1D known and to request the assistance you deserve.
Contact your school’s Office of Disability Services
As a student with T1D, you have a right to accommodations. As soon as you make your decision to attend, contact your college’s Office of Disability Services to see what services they offer. Many colleges require that you provide a letter from your doctor that includes your T1D diagnosis and a request for specific accommodations.
Examples of special accommodations include:
- On-campus housing and in-room accommodations, like refrigerators for insulin and snacks
- Campus meal plan, including nutritional information and access to dorms with cafeterias or accessibility to those nearby
- Early class registration to ensure optimal schedule
- Notification to teaching staff of your T1D status
- Breaks during class and exams for self-care
- Ability to reschedule exams in cases of hypo/hyperglycemia
- Changes to classroom attendance policies to accommodate the potential for sudden hypo/hyperglycemia or diabetes-related illnesses
Find more information on your rights as a college student with T1D HERE.
Your Medical Care Checklist
- FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education and medical records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18. If you want your parents to assist in any way with your medical care while you are at college, be sure to authorize access during the enrollment process.
- Check in with your campus Student Health Services to see what healthcare options are available. Arrange to have the most recent T1D information from your endocrinologist on file.
- Download resources from The Diabetes Link (a community for teens and twenty-somethings with diabetes, formerly known as the College Diabetes Network) (and check to see if your campus has a chapter!)
- Contact an endocrinologist/diabetes team in your new location, if necessary.
- Find a local pharmacy and/or arrange for mail-order prescription refills.
- Be sure to wear a medical alert ID; you’ll be around a lot of new people and in situations where it may be important for a stranger to know right away how to help you.
- Set up your room with plenty of low supplies, emergency sugar next to your bed and a headlamp or flashlight for nighttime blood glucose (BG) testing.
- If you plan to drink alcohol, familiarize yourself with how alcohol uniquely impacts people with diabetes (and know that glucagon may not work when you have alcohol in your system!).
Talk to your roommate
Both your roommate and RA will need to know about your T1D. You can email your roommate this guide: Talking to Your Roommate About Type 1 Diabetes.
Talk to the Resident Assistant (RA)
Your Resident Assistant (RA) is responsible for many different aspects of students’ lives as they go through their first semesters of college. RAs serve as mentors, academic and social advisors and as responsible upperclassman resources to residents. Therefore, RAs will need to know about any specific needs of residents. Our guide has everything an RA needs to know about a dorm-mate with type 1 diabetes, and how they can be the most effective and helpful to student success in college/university!
Talk to your professors
Whether you’re heading into college as a freshman or returning for another year at your university, you are heading into a time where you need to be independent and assertive about your health. Unlike elementary and secondary schools, colleges have no responsibility to identify disabilities. Therefore, it is the student’s job to let his or her school know about a type 1 diabetes diagnosis in order to find out what accommodations are available. This is your choice in the end though. (Read about one U.S. student’s opinion on applying for disability.)
Whether or not you apply for disability, you should let your professors know about your type 1 and what to expect through the year. Telling them before you need the accommodations will help build trust that when you ask, it’s a real need. Here are some essential tips to get your professors up to speed on type 1 diabetes.
Teaching Type 1 to Others
Stories for parents
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