Surviving College with T1D

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Starting college is an exciting – and scary – time for anyone. For people with type 1 diabetes, the transition to independent living can be especially fraught. But you’re not alone. With the right resources, you can ace your first year at college.


Under the Affordable Care Act, you can stay on your parents’ health plan until you turn 26. Additionally, your college may have its own health plan, as well as a health center on campus.

For more information of your coverage options, go to


College life can get hectic. Be sure to stock your dorm or apartment with backup supplies. You should have enough supplies for at least a month or two on hand. Here are some of the items you might need:

  • Insulin and syringes or insulin pen and needles
  • Continuous Glucose Monitor and pump
  • Glucose meter, lancing device, lancets and blood sugar test strips
  • Glucagon
  • Ketone testing supplies
  • Sharps disposal container
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Sharps disposal container
  • Cooling pack for insulin
  • Glucose tabs, fruit snacks and other low blood sugar supplies

Even with a good amount of supplies to get you started, you will need to restock eventually. Think about where you’re going to get new supplies, especially prescriptions, so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Food and Alcohol

A major change in your food routine can make it more difficult to manage your diabetes. Pay attention to your insulin-to-carb ratio, watch out for signs that your blood glucose levels are off, and talk to your health care provider or nutritionist about major changes to your diet.

If you’re drinking alcohol, watch how much you consume, both in terms of the carb count and the alcohol level, and don’t drink on an empty stomach. You’ll need to monitor your blood glucose levels, which may continue to change hours after you’ve finished drinking.


If you’re moving to a new city, you may be feeling very alone. Take control by actively building a support network.

  • College administration: Talk to your college about any accommodations you need. Although the process may work a little differently than it did in high school, most colleges are required to provide reasonable accommodations. Be clear about what you need and be ready to provide documentation.
  • Professors: Talk to your professors about your needs, as well as any accommodations the college has agreed to provide. This will be important if you ever have to excuse yourself during a lecture or an exam.
  • Your Resident Advisor: If you live in a dorm, talk to your RA about diabetes. Make sure your RA understands your needs, warning signs, and what to do in an emergency.
  • Friends and roommates: You’ll make a lot of new friends in college. Try to be open with them about your condition. Their support will make things easier for you. It’s especially important to educate your roommate and anyone you might be drinking with.
  • Emergencies: You should wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace, and you should keep emergency contact information in a visible spot for your roommate or RA.
  • Medical: Introduce yourself at the campus health clinic, and make sure you have access to all the medical care you need.
  • Peers: Approximately 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes. You’re not alone. Consider looking for other people on campus with type 1 diabetes so you can support each other. See if the College Diabetes Network has a chapter at your college.
  • Employers: Are you getting a part-time or summer job? Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you have the right to request reasonable accommodations without fear of discrimination.

For more tips, check out the Quick Start Guide to Living Independently with Type 1 Diabetes.