What I Wish I’d Known Before My Freshman Year of College

WRITTEN BY: Jenni Maizel 

So you are going to college. Tons of emotions are flooding your brain: curiosity, excitement, and stress, to name a few. The college transition is not easy, and making a transition with Type 1 diabetes certainly poses extra challenges. At least it did for me.

I was diagnosed with diabetes at 13 (almost 9 years ago), and although I had been dealing with the disease for a while, I was still worried about how my diabetes management would change in the college setting. Well, it changed dramatically. It was difficult at first, but over the last 3 years I have figured out ways to balance my blood sugar, schoolwork, social life, and overall health. I hope my tips- “college diabetes hacks” as I call them – help you prepare for one of the most exciting times of your life!

Don’t be afraid to inform fellow students. Everyone who’s had type 1 diabetes as a teenager is used to annoying questions such as, “Can you eat that?” and “Did you eat too much candy to get diabetes?” Needless to say, I was anxious about disclosing my condition to new people. However, it’s extremely important that you do tell some people like your roommate and RA- in case of a hypoglycemia emergency. And I promise that everyone is a lot more accepting in college.

Educate your professors. This is equally as important as telling your friends. Originally, I thought handling diabetes in class would not be a big deal, but I was quite wrong. I remember during my second week, I went low in a lecture and the professor yelled at me about eating. I had to explain that I was low in front of everyone. After this frustrating experience, I contacted the Office of Disability Services about receiving diabetes-related accommodations. This was one of the best decisions of my life. Although I do not like to consider diabetes a “disability”, getting written accommodations allowed me to eat in class, come in late, and get project extensions. On another positive note, registering with Disability Services enables me to sign up for classes early each semester! Really wish I knew that sooner!

Work with your school’s dining services on maintaining a healthy meal plan. Finding healthy food on campus is a challenge because there is so much fast food. The buffets have an extensive salad bar and fairly nutritious dinner selection, but carb counting is hard because the food isn’t always made the same. Talk to the dining office about getting carbohydrate information, and if you have a refrigerator, I’d suggest keeping some store-bought food in your dorm.

Keep physically active. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle is key. Between papers, exams, jobs, internships, and making friends, college is exhausting. Sometimes it’s hard to find the energy for a trip to the gym. However, setting aside an hour each day for exercise is beneficial, especially if you have diabetes. For me, stress makes my blood sugar skyrocket and exercise helps keep it stable. Go for a jog around campus, save time for the gym, or take a dance, yoga, or Zumba class.

Practice mindfulness. I know it sounds silly, but I wish someone had told me to breathe more in college. The stress can be overwhelming. Don’t forget to relax and take everything one step at a time; keeping an even mindset guarantees success!

Find a community. Before my freshman year, I never had friends with Type 1 diabetes. I figured that having others who understand the daily hurdles of diabetes would improve the transition, so I used social media to find others at my school. I ended up creating a small support group and joining organizations for college students with diabetes. Meeting other type 1s was a huge relief!

Have fun! I still can’t believe I’m going into my last semester at George Mason University. I know it’s cliché but time really does fly. And if there is one thing you should take away from this post, it’s that diabetes should not control your college experience. Be careful, but don’t be afraid to try new things, get involved, and make the most of it!



More resources for T1D college students here

Jenni Maizel 

Jenni studies Public Health and Psychology at George Mason University outside Washington, DC. She has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 8 years and is an active advocate on social media, running the popular Diabetes 101 page (@T1Diabetes101) on Twitter and Instagram.