Diabetes Survival Guide for College

In college there is no one to push you to test your blood sugars or get exercise except yourself. In order to have a successful university experience, it is important to balance meals, physical activity, rest and studying. Seeing a doctor is an important first step. Here are some suggestions you may find helpful:

Supplies and Support

  • Stock up on the supplies you will need: test strips, insulin, syringes, urine or blood ketone strips, glucagon.
  • Wear a Medical ID.
  • Carry sugar with you.
  • Be sure people around you are aware you have diabetes and know how to help if you have a low blood sugar. Teach your roommates and friends how to give glucagon. Discuss a plan for sick days with your doctor.
  • Know how to dispose of your used syringes, pen needles and lancets. Different counties have different requirements; be sure to review your county's requirements. 

Class schedule

Contact Accessibility Resources & Service if you need to make changes in your class schedule in order to accommodate the management of your diabetes. Discuss your class schedule needs, such as changing course times or days to allow for reasonable lunch breaks.

Eat nutritious food

For nutrition facts for campus food choices, see Carolina Dining Services. For special nutrition needs, ask to speak with the dietitian in Rams Head Dining Hall - (919) 962-2352. For a review of carbohydrate counting, try this website or ask your diabetes educator or nutritionist. You may want to keep a small refrigerator in your room to keep food items available. Some suggestions for healthy cafeteria foods are:

  • Lenoir upper level - traditional cafeteria
  • Lenoir lower level - 1.5.0 (for local and organic options), Mediterranean Deli (top-rated local healthy choice), Healthy Bowl, soup and salad bar 
  • Rams Head Dining Hall - full salad bar, heart healthy choices, fresh fruits

Campus Health

Campus Health offers many services for students and post-docs with diabetes, including a group of providers with advanced diabetes knowledge, a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, and nutritionists. Visit early in the semester for a good start.

Physical activity

Check blood sugar before exercising. Learn how much carbohydrate you need to balance exercise (usually 25-30 grams for every 30 minutes of exercise). Tell your exercise partner to give you sugar if you become confused. For heavier exercise than usual, discuss a reduction in your insulin with your physician. For help in developing an exercise plan, check out all that is available through Campus Recreation and visit the Student Recreation Center's Functional Movement and Fitness Center for their FREE drop-in fitness services. 

Sexual Health

For young adults, taking care of your sexual and reproductive health is important. Resources include Student WellnessCampus Health Primary Care Clinics, and Gynecology. Screening and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, Pap tests, and contraception are all available. Contraception and planning ahead are especially important for young people with diabetes who could become pregnant, since normal blood sugar control before pregnancy prevents birth defects. 


Falling asleep and missing a meal? Sleeping too late to get all your diabetes care done before that 8:00 am class?

  • Try "Defensive Sleep": get to bed early enough to stay in control and feel good the next day.
  • Be sure you get breakfast after giving your morning insulin. Discuss your insulin plan with your physician:  a multi-dose insulin program or pump allows more flexible mealtimes, keeping your blood sugar level if you miss a meal.

Serious hypoglycemia

Give your roommate and close friends instructions for emergencies. Instruct them to call 911 if you pass out. It is helpful for them to know how to administer glucagon in case of passing out due to severe low blood sugar. The staff at Campus Health Pharmacy (919) 966-6554, Student Stores Pharmacy (919) 966-8166, or Campus Health Same Day Care (919) 966-2281 can help teach your roommate or friend when and how to administer glucagon.  


  • Stay sober so you recognize hypoglycemia. Ask a responsible person to give you a sugared soft drink or glucose tablet if you seem confused. Wear a MedicAlert ID. It could save your life. Get a ride. Do not drive if you have consumed alcohol. Hypoglycemia and alcohol both impair driving and judgment. Carry sugar. Plan ahead so that drinking does not affect your diabetes control or class performance. If you choose to drink alcohol, remember it may cause a serious low blood sugar even hours later. It takes an hour per drink for the hypoglycemia risk to clear. Plan to monitor and eat during and after drinking alcohol. Carry sugar with you as you go home. Set an alarm every 2 hours to recheck your blood sugar overnight. 

Ask for Help

Ask for help! If you're feeling overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, or alone.