The Move to College: How to Prepare Over the Summer

For young adults with diabetes, preparing for the move to college over the summer will ensure you're at your best at the start of this new chapter! If you take all these steps before leaving home, you can avoid being dragged down by high blood sugars or worries that you’ll run out of supplies.

Contact your college’s disability office

Registering with your college’s office of disabilities is the first step in addressing your anticipated needs. This is different than having a conversation with your professors. While you’re there, here are some reasonable modifications to request:

  • Permission to check blood glucose in classrooms and lecture halls
  • Permission to keep a personal refrigerator for diabetes supplies in dorm room
  • Permission to reschedule an exam if experiencing high or low blood sugar level
  • Being excused for diabetes-related absences and the ability to make up work
  • Permission to have an extra break to eat during a clinic or internship
  • Permission to schedule classes so that a regular meal schedule can be maintained

Unlike elementary and high schools, colleges are not required to make changes or offer accommodations that change their standards or the integrity of their program. Some requests that are not likely to be granted include:

  • Exemption from course requirements
  • Taking significant extra time on an exam
  • Training school personnel to administer diabetes care

Requesting a modification after you need it is usually not successful. If you have not told the college that you have diabetes (registered with your college office of disability) and you perform poorly on an exam because of a high or low blood sugar level, you will likely not be able to retake the exam. Be proactive. Register with the office of disabilities before a problem arises.

For more information, check out the American Diabetes Association fact sheet on Diabetes and Postsecondary Education.

Figure out how you will get your diabetes supplies while you are at school

Decide if you will get the supplies at a pharmacy near your school, or if you want to continue getting them at parents’ home. If you have mail order, ask if they can be shipped to your school address. If you haven’t done so already, begin to order and pick up your own medication. Practicing this at home gives you the experience to deal with something that may go wrong with your prescriptions at college.

Make a “sick-day kit”

Include a thermometer, bland foods and liquids (sugar-free gelatin, saltines, broth-based soup, juice, sugar and sugar-free fluids, and sugar-free cough drops), Advil® and Tylenol®.

Plan how you will tell your roommate and new friends at college

Make sure your roommate and friends know how to assist if you go low.

Wear a medic alert

Always wear a medic alert in case something happens while you are away from home.

Talk to a social worker

Make an appointment with a social worker to further discuss and make a safe plan for caring for your diabetes at school.

Additional resources