It’s that time of year again–back to college season is here. For freshmen and returning college students alike, “back to school” time can be stressful, especially when managing type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Here are our best ways to have a successful semester when away at college with diabetes:
Know Your Rights
College students are protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and are entitled to a 504 plan that grants them accommodations for management of their diabetes. This can allow for things like extra time during tests, food and drink in classrooms and testing rooms, allows the student to self-manage where they are, miss an exam if their blood sugar is out of a certain range, or any other accommodations that the student, their family, and their endocrinologist decide are needed for care. The purpose of a 504 plan for students with diabetes is to offer them equal access and prevent them from being discriminated against due to their diabetes.
Find the Disability Services Office
In order to get accommodations, a student with diabetes must seek out the Disability Services Office at their university. This office coordinates the student’s 504 plan, and will register the student as a person with a disability, in order for them to be protected against discrimination. Sometimes, this office will require evidence of a student’s disability. This can be anything from a recent blood test, a doctor’s note, or a report from high school showing that they had 504 accommodations in their previous place of education. Many students with diabetes don’t like to identify their diabetes as a “disability”, per se, but know that under federal law there are protections that people with diabetes are entitled to.
Meet Others with Diabetes
One way to create a community in a new setting is to meet people who are facing the same issues as you. The College Diabetes Network, whose mission statement is to, “…help young adults with type 1 diabetes take ownership of their health, and live a life without compromise” was started in 2009 by a college student in Massachusetts who felt isolated and alone on her college campus when she couldn’t find any other students living with type 1 diabetes. This organization aims to create support group chapters at colleges and universities, where people living with diabetes can meet others, network, and create lasting friendships to help them through the trials and tribulations of college life. Currently, there are over 3,500 members on over 224 campuses throughout the US.
Tell Others About Your Diabetes
It’s important to let most people around you know that you have diabetes and to let them know how they can help you in case of an emergency (training them on when and how to use glucagon is a must). The most important people to let know about your diabetes are your roommate(s), close friends, partners, professors, teammates on sports teams, or any other people that you’re in close contact with often. It’s also important to wear a medical alert bracelet in case you go low and are unable to respond (alcohol can make blood sugar go low and this can be dangerous in the party scene that is common on college campuses).
Make Your Care Local
If you’re going to school more locally to your hometown, you may be able to get back home to see your endocrinologist and refill your prescriptions pretty regularly, but if you’re studying far from home, please be sure to make your care local! This means finding a new endocrinologist and primary care physician (PCP), and switching to a local pharmacy where you can easily pick up your prescriptions (walking distance from campus is ideal). Also be cognizant about dorm accommodations to make sure you have a mini-fridge available to store insulin and other medications.
With a little planning and intentionality, you can absolutely have a successful semester at college with diabetes. Are you a college student, or are you preparing for freshman year? What advice or tips do you have for students going to university with diabetes? Share this post and comment below!
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