If you’re familiar with me or my blog, then you probably know about my history with the the non-profit organization College Diabetes Network (CDN). I went from attending meetings as a member, to leading them as chapter president, and now I participate as much as possible as an alum.
This incredible organization’s mission is to provide innovative, peer-based programs which connect and empower students and young professionals to thrive with diabetes. Over the years, CDN has grown into a full-blown network with chapters at colleges and universities across the country. As CDN has flourished, the hard-working team at its Boston headquarters has established numerous tools and resources for use by young adults with type one diabetes. Recently, the Off to College Event Hosting Guide (OTC Guide) received an exciting revitalization to better address the need for information to help incoming college freshmen.
The OTC Guide is a step-by-step guide for individuals who want to hold an event to prepare high school students with diabetes for the transition to college. Initially, Lilly Diabetes provided a grant that made it possible for CDN to create 200 Event Hosting Kits with the guide, brochures, and handouts for the hosts to give to attendees. This year, the guide was adapted into audience-specific booklets—one for parents and one for students, covering essential information from accommodations to having “the talk” with friends and roommates about diabetes. The booklets were medically and scientifically reviewed and approved by the American Diabetes Association, and thanks to support from Lilly, Dexcom, and Tandem, CDN is able to make them available to any family in the United States at no cost.
While the student booklet focuses on logistics—for example, how and why to register for accommodations—the parent booklet focuses on empowering the student to become the key decision maker and self-advocate. This is crucial for most students because college is often the time when they take the first step towards independence, both in terms of their diabetes and daily lifestyle choices in general. Since college is a stepping stone to the “real world” where students can begin to take over aspects of their management while surrounded by a built-in support system, CDN identified this time as key to creating long-term success for people with diabetes.
Another focus of the booklets is how students and parents can balance students’ desire for independence with parents’ anxiety over relinquishing responsibility. Some parents are worried that once their student leaves for school, they will stop managing their diabetes. The booklets emphasize that there is no such thing as good or bad diabetes care—diabetes is a marathon, not a sprint, and for some students, it takes time to realize how important it is to take care of oneself. It is best, however, for this transition to happen in a safe, supportive environment like college. To help ease parents’ anxieties and students’ frustration, CDN included a family communication agreement in the booklet so that there are clear expectations on both ends about how and when parents and students will communicate about diabetes. The booklets also emphasize that both parties must be empathetic to the feelings of the other, as the transition of care and the balance between independence and dependence can be difficult for everyone.
The booklets contain sections about other topics, including the following:
- Tips on how to encounter and interact with new people who are not familiar with diabetes
- Advice on how to find on-campus support
- Planning strategies in terms of eating/exercise/sick day routines
- Self-advocacy guidance (such as registering with Disability Services)
With its carefully researched information and practical approach to college life with diabetes, the OTC booklets are an excellently crafted resource for anyone who is concerned about this major life transition. Personally speaking, my transition to college was a little bumpy at times as I experienced unexpected challenges with my diabetes over the years. However, the support and connections I made thanks to the CDN made it much easier for me to thrive as a college student who just so happened to have diabetes.
If you’re interested in the booklets, you can preview the Student Booklet and the Parent Booklet, and request a copy of the booklets here. Students and parents can receive digital copies of the booklets, and clinicians, campus administrators, educators or anyone else who serves young people with T1D and their families can receive physical copies of the booklets to distribute.
Getting involved with a CDN chapter on your campus or finding one nearby is easy. Visit the Chapters page of the website and search for a school in your state, or email Chapters@collegediabetesnetwork.org.
If you don’t have a chapter nearby, we can help you start your own or get in touch with other nearby students with T1D. Fill out this form to learn more about starting a chapter. There might also be a JDRF or ADA Chapter near you, or a peer support group outside of CDN. Try searching Facebook or Google for “[your area] + diabetes.”
You can also sign up for a free Student Membership to get notifications about clinical trials and patient advisory committees near you, receive exclusive access to internships and job openings with our partner organizations and corporate members, get alerts on the things that matter to you in the diabetes community, and hear updates from other CDN students across the country.