The countdown is on! With a child headed off to college in the fall, there are tuition bills to pay, bags to pack, courses to help choose…and reins to hand over as you help your son or daughter transition to independent type 1 diabetes care. What works best for college-bound teens making the giant leap into adult life with T1D? We asked members of the College Diabetes Network™ and other college freshmen with type 1 to share what their parents did the summer before school that made all the difference.
“My parents, especially my mom, did so much for me the summer before I left for college. They had me enter a list of emergency contacts and other important health information in my phone. My mom made sure I knew where my college’s Student Health and Wellness Center was, how much insulin I had on hand, how many test strips I was packing, and much more. Most importantly, my parents gradually started to treat my diabetes care similar to how my close friends do: They want me to be healthy, but my health is ultimately my responsibility. I think that the slow build to independence throughout the summer was what has helped the most. My parents rock!”
—Tanner, Johns Hopkins University
“I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes only 23 days before my scheduled move-in day at college! I had made friends over summer orientation who were understanding and willing to support me and learn about diabetes, but it was my parents’ letting me know how much they trusted me and my ability to manage my diabetes that made the biggest difference in my confidence levels. Of course, they were very worried about my leaving [so soon after my diagnosis], but they also believed that if I was adult enough to go to college, I was adult enough to manage my diabetes. Knowing that my parents believe I can do this has helped me effectively manage my diabetes this year.”
—Madison, Simmons College
Pack Extra Supplies
“The most helpful thing my parents did for me before I left for college was to send me off with a stockpile of my diabetes supplies. In high school, my parents would never have kept six months’ worth of supplies on hand, but that’s what they packed me for college. And honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without it. The whole first week of classes I was consistently low. I did not have one day where my blood sugar wasn’t very low at least once, if not a couple times. I blew through my low supplies, finishing off all of my juices and the majority of my glucose tabs. Changing everything about my lifestyle when I transitioned from living at home to living in a dorm affected my diabetes much more than I had ever imagined. Having a box of supplies on which I can always rely makes me more confident about taking care of myself.”
—Hannah, Kennesaw State University
Delegate Diabetes Tasks
“The best thing my parents did for me last summer was gradually transferring responsibilities to me that had been theirs for the past 10 years. They started by having me order my own prescriptions over the phone…then picking up my prescriptions, calling companies to change my shipping address, and anticipating when I would need to refill prescriptions. It really helped that I had a couple of months to learn all of this, but it also made me appreciate all the work my parents have done to make sure I never run out of insulin or that my pump supplies always arrive on time.”
—Kelsey, Stanford University
Give a Thoughtful Gift
“I am reminded all the time of one way my mother helped prepare me for diabetes management in college—and that’s because I wear it almost every day! My mom gave me an athletic fanny pack and I use this whenever I go running outside or when taking a trip to the gym. I use it on my bike, too. It fits all the supplies I need and is the perfect size. I know fanny packs aren’t the coolest (believe me, I wore one 24/7 when I was first diagnosed in third grade), but it is so convenient, and I promise that the athletic part of it makes it look more stylish. I appreciate that my mom encourages me to exercise in college without letting the small but sometimes annoying inconveniences of diabetes management get in the way.”
—Charlotte, University of Rochester
Hit the Supermarket
“The best thing that my parents did the summer before college for my T1D care was scout out a variety of low-carb snacks I can keep in my dorm. Now I never go hungry even when the dining halls are closed!”
—Gordon, Princeton University
Visit the College Diabetes Network website for resources for parents sending a child off to college, a month-by-month checklist for for teens preparing to leave, and a new Off to College booklet for students.
The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to use the power of peers, access to resources, and grassroots leadership to fill the gaps experienced by young adults with diabetes and make their college experience safer and more successful. CDN’s vision is to empower young adults with diabetes to thrive in all of their personal, healthcare, and scholastic endeavors. CDN has a presence on over 80 campuses with more than 60 affiliated chapters.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.