Ricky looking thoughtfulIn the coming weeks, many parents will watch their teens head off to college. If your child has a chronic condition, you’re naturally worried about how they’re going to manage it on their own. In addition to adjusting to the regular aspects of college life, young adults also still need to manage their condition.

Your child should have gained more and more confidence in managing their condition on their own during high school. College is when taking those steps toward independence will pay off.

We spoke with Kathy Murphy, RN, PhD, Associate Director of the Diabetes Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), who gave eight tips parents should share with their children.

In preparation

  1. Make sure you understand your health insurance coverage, especially if you are going to college out of state. Some Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) only provide emergency out-of-area coverage. That means copays and coinsurance could be more expensive. Customer service representatives at the 1-800 number on the back of your card can help you understand any differences in your coverage. It might make sense to add the college coverage that is usually offered.
  2. Plan to take enough medication and supplies to last the entire semester. Bring more than you need so you can be ready for anything unexpected. If your prescription has limits on how often it can be refilled, make arrangements with your care provider before you leave to send new prescriptions to your college address or a pharmacy near the college.
  3. Reach out to the college’s Center for Students with Disabilities. Educational institutions are required to provide reasonable accommodations, according to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Accommodations could include more time for taking tests, preference in scheduling classes or allowing recording of lectures, plus others, depending on the specific condition. Students must still meet all “essential academic” standards.

Once you’re on campus

  1. Have a one-page medical summary available including your medications or special treatments at all times. This can be on paper or available electronically on your phone. This can be done with a shared document that your guardians can also access. Also, wear an emergency medical ID (bracelet or necklace) and set up the emergency medical information part of your phone (ICE) to help those caring for you.
  2. Meet with the staff at your college health service. Know the location and hours it’s open in case you need medical care. 
  3. Take copies of your current medical records to your college’s health facility so your history is readily available.
  4. Ask the food service on campus to assist you in meal planning, especially if nutrition and diet play a role in managing your condition.
  5. Inform your roommate, resident adviser and coach, if you play sports, about your condition if you might need their help at some point. They should be aware of symptoms you might experience and any immediate action they can take. For example, share where you keep your spare asthma inhaler or what foods/drink they can give you if you show signs of low blood sugar. Your roommate should know when to contact emergency medical services on your behalf.

Going off to college is a big change. Making sure that your child feels prepared to manage their condition will ease the transition to this exciting new chapter in their life.

girl testing blood sugar

Tools to Manage Diabetes

These resources will help your child and family manage blood sugar testing, highs and lows, insulin, nutrition, and more.

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Life With Diabetes

Review our information about support and coping, school, teen topics, and general well-being.