College-shopping While Diabetic
IN’s college intern offers tips for prospective students and parents.
Just last year, I was stressing about choosing a college, where I would spend the next 4 years of my life. Choosing a college is a big decision for anyone. But being diabetic, I wanted to make sure that my chosen school had the resources, the people, and the support I needed to live and attend school comfortably. At the same time, I wanted to pick something outside of my comfort zone.
But where to start? What were the things that were most important to me when it came to making a decision? Here are four factors I considered before choosing a college as a diabetic:
Disabilities Office/ Resources
Having a reputable disabilities office is SO important. In high school, I had a 504 plan to cover my diabetes in case any teachers wouldn’t let me leave to use the bathroom, eat a snack in class, or manage diabetes in other ways. But in college, I found out that there are no 504s! Instead, institutions require a disabilities letter that the student distributes to all professors. Make sure yours is capable of providing the support you need. I have found my school’s Disability Office is a great resource to use because of the staff’s friendliness, willingness to help, and commitment to making me feel comfortable in all aspects of college life.
Being diabetic can be a challenge in college because of the food on campus. When thinking about enrolling in a college, it is important to consider the quality of the food service on campus. First, how does the food look? Appetizing? Or do the students steer away from it? Second, are there healthy options and a variety of foods available? I avoid red meat, in addition to eating low-carb meals, so it is important for me to have access to a dining hall that can accommodate my diet.
Have questions about the dining services? Just ask! Someone from the dining services should be happy to answer any questions you have. Really listen to the response that the food service staff gives. Are staff members sure of this special request for food? Or do they look confused? Do they call over another person to answer the question? Taking note of the response to this question could determine how accommodating they actually are, versus what the school’s brochure promises.
Making sure that the school has adequate health facilities is essential. Fortunately, my college has a great health facility that combines health, wellness, and counseling in one office, making it easy to book appointments for different needs. It’s a great idea to visit the facility and talk to a staff member for more information on the programs and services offered. You can also ask your tour guide, if you formally tour the campus. Existing students may have insights that are not apparent to staff members.
Although I believe that residence halls should not be a deciding factor for college, I think that housing should be taken into consideration. You should confirm that the rooms actually resemble the photos you see in the school’s marketing materials. A dorm doesn’t have to be glamorous, but it should be habitable. Do the residents have enough space or are they crammed? Try and picture yourself living in the room. Would you be happy? If not, that says something.
I also suggest that diabetics consider a random roommate. This is because you can indicate living preferences and needs on a form, allowing the college to match you up with someone who will be considerate of the need to check your blood sugar in the middle of the night. Furthermore, you don’t want to ruin an existing friendship because of different lifestyles.
Final factors to consider are campus clubs, organizations, and the college’s outreach for future internships and jobs. Make sure these organizations exist, so you can meet others with the same interests and professional goals.
One last thing—be open when looking at schools and trust the process. Best of luck!
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