What I (and my parents!) wish I was told before going to college: general advice about the college transition with diabetes.
In high school teachers drill this into your head: “the workload in college is much heavier!” And they’re 100% correct. The stereotype of college students pulling “all-nighters,” spending long hours in the library and drowning in research papers isn’t far from reality. Managing your diabetes with all these stressful situations can be challenging and seemingly impossible—but it is definitely doable.
While I don’t recommend pulling an “all-nighter” to anyone, I especially would say to try and avoid them as much as possible if you have diabetes. I’ve experienced the “all-nighter” myself from time to time. I know if I have a lot of work ahead of me, I have to prepare my diabetes for it. The first time I pulled an “all-nighter” I didn’t know what to expect. I wish I knew I’d be struggling with low blood glucose readings all night and all the next day.
Everyone’s body reacts differently, so I’ve found it’s helpful to be as prepared as possible if you know you will only get a few hours (if any!) of sleep. Taking a five minute break every hour helps not only your brain, but also for checking your blood glucose levels. Personally, my readings tend to be lower from staying awake and working hard on studying or writing a paper, so I’ll try to eat fruit or sip on orange juice to keep myself from dropping. But I still try to test myself every hour to avoid a high reading as well. Once I start heading to class or going about my day, I also test myself more frequently to avoid those abnormal blood glucose levels too. By the following day I can usually start going back to my normal routine.
Creating and Sticking to a Schedule
Another aspect to the college workload I wish I knew beforehand was scheduling. In college you get more freedom to pick your schedule. Personally, I’m an early morning person. My freshman year I picked as many early classes as possible. Mondays through Thursdays I started with 8:00 AM classes and finished my day by 12:30 PM. I thought that was awesome! Instead I found out that it could be challenging with my diabetes. Eight o’clock is early and I knew I needed 30 minutes to get ready and walk to class. If I woke up with low blood glucose levels I barely had time to get ready and walk to class. The same happened if I woke up with a high blood glucose reading. I quickly learned that if I chose to start my classes at 9:25 AM instead of 8:00 AM then I had more time to wake up and start my day with my diabetes. I was able to eat a good breakfast and head to class with plenty of time factored in if there was a mishap with my morning reading. I had time to adjust myself for the rest of my day.
When you have diabetes, planning your schedule, whether it’s just for a heavy workload week or it’s for your whole morning routine, is crucial and something I wish I considered when I first went off to college. After my first semester I learned how to schedule time that was ideal for myself and my diabetes.
Check out the Diabetes at School section to read more advice from Shannon about managing diabetes at college.