For many college students, living with diabetes on a university campus brings a whole new level to learning. Freshmen who are living away from home for the first time are now dealing with diabetes on their own. Both students and their parents can experience increased anxiety as they learn to navigate the transition of self-care responsibilities. From conversations with roommates, where and what to eat, to refilling and taking medications, and what to do if they get sick – the concerns are real and can be challenging. Communication, patience and a problem-solving attitude are keys to success.

Students can successfully manage the transition using these three tips:

Find resources on campus

The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is an organization that helps teens and young adults with type 1 diabetes transition into independence. Local CDN chapters are at University of Louisville, University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University. To find out if there is a CDN at your university or to start a chapter, visit This organization can help you connect with others with type 1 diabetes, learn about local resources in your new community and encourage you to be involved in projects and leadership. CDN will provide information and discuss topics that are relevant to young adults with type 1 diabetes such as talking to new friends and roommates about diabetes, drinking, dating, emotional wellbeing, accommodations and student rights.

Find a local medical provider

Make the appointment and prepare for it. This includes knowing where to go and investigating if lab work should be done before the appointment. Determine your goals for the appointment and be prepared with questions and to discuss your challenges. Ask for referrals for diabetes self-management training if you need help. Make sure you follow up with the provider’s suggestions and know how best to communicate with your provider between visits.

Find a network of friends:

In your new environment, create a network of people who can be a support. Talk with your dorm resident assistant (RA), roommate and close friends about how you are managing your diabetes. Share your goals, challenges and accomplishments and how they can help you, if needed.

Going to college is the start of a new adventure! The skills, strategies, and problem solving techniques learned at this time will have lasting effects on wherever the road may take you in the future – especially in your journey for good health!

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Article by:

Beth Ackerman, R.D.

Beth Ackerman is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator at the UofL Physicians – Diabetes and Obesity Center. Beth is on the team of educators of the ADA-approved diabetes education team at UofL Physicians. She has counseled people with diabetes for more than 25 years. Ackerman serves as the Diabetes Prevention Program Workgroup co-chair for the Kentucky Diabetes Network and volunteers at Camp Hendon, a diabetes camp for children.

All posts by Beth Ackerman, R.D.
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