Starting college this year? No sweat! T1D Exchange has your back with tips on preparing for college life with T1D. We know college can be intimidating and overwhelming – the more you prepare, the more you will thrive.   

Prepare for dorm life 

Setting up your dorm is an exciting part of starting college! There is much to consider when thinking about your new living quarters.  

  • Grab a mini fridge to keep insulin and other meds safe: One thing you don’t want to forget is a mini fridge. A mini fridge will allow you to safely store insulin and other medications in the comfort of your room.  
  • Get a good storage container: You’ll need a place to store your supplies and fast-acting carbs to treat lows, so don’t leave this off your list! 
  • Keep an eye on your supplies: Don’t let the chaos of college distract you from staying stocked up. Create a system to replenish items in a timely manner. 
  • Prepare to educate your roommates about T1D: Think about how you plan to educate your roommates about T1D. Teach them a bit about the symptoms of mild-to-severe lows, how to administer emergency glucagon, where you store emergency glucagon in your dorm, and to definitely call 911 during any emergencies.  
  • Talk to your Residential Advisor (RA): Your RA is a fellow student that watches over your dorm, kind of like a homeroom teacher. Take a moment to let them know you have T1D, and a few of the basics in case of an emergency. Building a supportive network within your dorm community can give you an extra layer of T1D support when/if you need it!  

Establish your rights as a student with T1D 

To ensure you receive the necessary accommodation, it’s important to establish your rights as a student with T1D.  

  • Obtain a letter from your doctor explaining your diagnosis and potential needs: This documentation can help you navigate situations such as retaking exams due to blood sugar fluctuations, leaving class when necessary, or securing housing near the cafeteria for convenient access to meals. This letter might also be necessary to establish the need for a single dorm room — to ensure you have the safety and privacy to manage your chronic illness properly. 
  • Contact your school’s Student Disability Services: They are a great resource to discuss and establish your potential needs as a student with T1D. They can assist you in creating a comprehensive plan that addresses medication management, scheduling, and other accommodations.  

Set up your pharmacy and supplies needs  

  • Set up your new pharmacy ahead of time: Spend the first weeks at college getting to know the campus and your new classmates rather than tracking down a pharmacy! (Pssst, remember to bring long-acting insulin with you in case your pump malfunctions!) 
  • Update your shipping address: You don’t want your pump and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) supplies going to your old address! 
  • Don’t forget your emergency glucagon: Today’s 1-step emergency glucagon options are so easy to use and easy to teach others how to use! Get that prescription filled before you head to school and teach your friends and roommates about it! Glucagon is the life-saving hormone that reverses severe low blood sugar in minutes — and we should all have it nearby as people with T1D. 
  • Talk with your healthcare team: Prior to your big move, check in to discuss any additional needs specific to dorm life. They can provide valuable insights into managing T1D while navigating the college environment. Together, you can develop strategies for handling stress, managing meal plans, and adjusting insulin dosages according to your changing routine. 

Get a medical ID alert 

  • Purchase (and wear) a medical ID alert: There are many options to choose from, and in a new environment where people may not be familiar with T1D, wearing a medical ID alert is crucial. A medical alert bracelet or necklace can communicate critical information about your condition, potentially saving your life during emergencies.  

Create a routine 

Starting college will no doubt have an impact on your daily life. But there are steps you can take to make sure you are able to create a new routine that improves not only your diabetes management but also your overall well-being.

New food, new schedules, new friends — change is always hard to juggle with T1D. The more you can stick to some positive parts of a routine, like getting enough sleep and exercise every day, the more you can manage the impact college life has on your health. 

  • Plan your meals: Whether you’re planning to cook or you have a meal plan, figuring out your food options on campus is a must. Familiarize yourself with the dining hall and stock up on any cooking tools you may need. 
  • Hit the gym: We know you’ll be busy living your new college life, but don’t forget the benefits of exercise. Consider joining a yoga class or intermural sports team to pass the time. Most colleges have a lot of choices to choose from — so see what yours has to offer! 

College is gonna be awesome! 

Transitioning to dorm life with T1D is gonna be overwhelming — and hopefully fun! The more you prepare, the more you’ll thrive. Remember, open communication and self-advocacy are key to ensuring a safe and successful college experience. 

Wait, also…now that you’re 18: consider joining the T1D Registry to help contribute to research that improves treatment and diabetes management for people just like you!  


Check out these resources for more helpful content regarding T1D and college life!