The transition from high school to college can be challenging for anyone. But for college students with diabetes, a new environment and new routines can interfere with the ability to effectively manage diabetes. By doing a bit of prep work, seeking proper support, and finding the right tools, you can establish a sustainable diabetes management routine that supports your health during college and beyond.
Challenges Facing College Students With Diabetes
Even if you’ve been living with diabetes most of your life, managing diabetes in college can feel like starting all over again. While college can bring a new sense of independence, you’re also likely responsible for everything involved in your diabetes management for the very first time—while you simultaneously juggle the demands of college.
College students with diabetes often experience a range of social and logistical challenges that affect diabetes management.
Social challenges may include:
- While it's exciting to meet new people and establish your own identity in college, you may also find yourself having to re-explain your diabetes to your new friends, resident advisors, etc.
- College is full of new experiences and places to go, so you may have to find new ways of checking your blood sugar in public.
- You may want to let your peers or professors know that you’d prefer to not be treated differently.
Logistical challenges may include:
- Transitioning medical care (e.g., finding a local healthcare team and new pharmacy)
- Balancing classes and schoolwork with medical appointments
- Finding healthy eating options in the dining hall or cafeteria
- Managing the spontaneity of college life (e.g., late nights studying, eating out, or going to parties)
- Storing diabetes supplies
- Finding time to exercise
New environments and routines can significantly disrupt your diabetes self-care plan, and it’s easy to let diabetes management get pushed to the back burner. But staying committed to your routine is important for your health and well-being in both the short and long term.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Just as you’re preparing to take on the new challenges that college brings, you can aim to take on the new challenges of managing diabetes at college. Managing diabetes requires planning and consistency. Staying on track with your self-care plan is possible with the right support, tools, and approach.
Do a Bit of Prep Work
Start getting your ducks in a row in the months before you head off to college. Below is an example of some prep work you may do in the months leading up to move-in day.
Three months before move-in
Two months before move-in
One month before move-in
One week before move-in
On move-in day
Make Self-Care a Priority
Making self-care a priority during college can be hard for anyone, but for college students with diabetes, the stakes are higher. Diet, exercise, and sleep are not only important for your overall well-being but crucial for managing diabetes and preventing complications.
After receiving your schedule of classes, develop a realistic eating, exercise, and sleep schedule that aligns with your diabetes management plan. Also, be sure to carve out time each day to check your blood sugar. Your healthcare team can tell you when and how often you should be checking. Setting reminders on your phone or in a diabetes app can help you stick to your schedule.
Connecting with others who understand what living with diabetes in college is like can be incredibly powerful.
To find others who understand what you’re going through, consider joining the College Diabetes Network (CDN). The CDN is a national nonprofit organization that aims to address the unique challenges faced by college students with diabetes. CDN chapters empower college students with diabetes to connect, share the ups and downs of living with diabetes on campus, exchange management strategies, and support each other. You can find a CDN chapter in your school’s area here. CDN also has a community available for parents of young adults living with diabetes along with a wealth of online resources.
For more individualized support, you may consider meeting with a certified diabetes care education specialist (CDCES). CDCESs are healthcare professionals who educate, support, and advocate for those living with diabetes and promote self-management to achieve treatment goals and optimize health outcomes.
Stay on Track with Glucose Monitoring
Monitoring glucose levels and keeping track of changes is a key aspect of diabetes management. In addition to helping you identify high and low blood sugar events, it allows you and your (new) healthcare team to
- Analyze the efficacy of your treatment plan and make adjustments when necessary and
- Understand how factors such as diet, exercise, and stress affect glucose levels.
College life can make it difficult to stay on track with glucose monitoring, particularly if you’re using a traditional BGM that requires a multistep testing process and separate test strips and lancets. An automatic blood glucose monitor (ABGM) can simplify the process:
A BGM is a handheld device that allows you to check your blood glucose levels. Traditional BGMs require you to manually load the test strip into the device, load the lancet into the lancing device, lance, and collect blood.
An ABGM automates the glucose testing process and eliminates the need to handle separate testing components like lancets and test strips. You simply press a button and get accurate results within seconds.
Finding strategies and tools that simplify daily diabetes management can make a real difference for you.
Stay on Track With POGO Automatic®
The POGO Automatic Monitor is a pocket-sized ABGM that automatically lances and collects blood in a single step—an ideal feature for busy college students with diabetes. If you need to check your blood glucose in class and don’t want anyone to notice, you can even test while keeping the device concealed in your backpack or under your desk.
With POGO Automatic, you simply load a 10-test cartridge into the monitor—there’s nothing else to carry with you. To check your blood sugar, turn the monitor on and place your finger on the test port. The POGO Automatic Monitoring System will automatically lance, collect blood, and give you accurate results quickly. When the test is complete, POGO Automatic retracts the lancet and test strip and cues up new ones for next time.
POGO Automatic features Bluetooth connectivity and comes with the free Patterns® for POGO Automatic app, which allows you to set reminders, track trends, and share data with your healthcare team through the Patterns sharing circle feature. Patterns also imports data from many popular wellness apps, giving you the opportunity to better understand how your new environment and new routines are affecting your glucose levels.
Enjoy College While Managing Diabetes
College is an amazing time in your life—a time to grow, meet new people, and discover your passions—and your diabetes doesn’t have to get in the way. By making self-care, getting support, and finding new tools and strategies priorities, you can create a sustainable diabetes management routine that will set you up for success.
Jaclyn Owens is a product director specializing in diabetes management tools. She is committed to using technology to empower people with diabetes and help them take control of their health.
All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.