College Diabetes Network

Letting go of your son or daughter who is away at college is difficult enough. And when he or she has type 1 diabetes the feelings of pride and hope are compounded by worries about their health and well-being.

As a student, your child may experience mixed emotions of both excitement and fear about their independence. Not only are they faced with navigating through campus life, but they also must resolve issues related to their diabetes care.

Starting CDN

Discovering that there were no support services available to college students with diabetes spurred Christina Roth, then a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, to create the College Diabetes Network in 2009.

The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a national non-profit organization founded to address the unique challenges facing college students with diabetes, from access to better health care and resources, to creating a community that understands and supports the disease.

Christina says, “I started a small group on the UMass campus to go beyond the usual student groups. There were so many issues for students with diabetes—housing, dining, and social activities. I wanted students to connect with other students like them to share how they dealt with diabetes.”

A Growing Network

Today, there are more than 20 chapters at colleges and universities across the United States. CDN chapters provide a way for students to meet in person and connect, talk, laugh, and share the ups and downs about life with diabetes on campus.

When asked about CDN, a student from Wellesley College stated, “I was always open about having diabetes, but I never truly took responsibility of it until I met other type-1s on my campus. The bond we have was definitely the push I needed. My HbA1C dropped three full points since I met them last year. Meeting them changed my life."

CDN’s mission is to empower and improve the lives of students living with type 1 diabetes through peer support and access to information and resources. CDN provides information and programs to help students with the three major issues they may encounter while in college.

  1. No ‘safety net’ of parents, friends who already know about their diabetes, and their endocrinologist. It’s like starting over again and everything is new. Students are completely on their own caring for themselves and managing their supplies. 
  2. Spontaneity of college life. Life on campus with its stress, late nights, lack of healthy food, and no regular schedule can lead to proper diabetes management being put on the ‘back burner’. Peer pressure and dating also affects decision-making.
  3. Desire to be ‘normal’.  Students may ignore their diabetes so that it won’t interfere with enjoying life on campus.

Start Preparing

If your child will be going off to college soon, it’s not too soon to start thinking about preparing your child for diabetes management in college.

CDN has numerous resources available to students, parents, and university administrators about joining and starting a chapter, tips on preparing for college and information about its online communities. Visit College Diabetes Network.

The American Diabetes Association has valuable resources available to help ensure that college students with diabetes understand their rights and are treated fairly. Visit our Post Secondary Education section.

Also check out the National Diabetes Education Program’s resources to help you and your doctor prepare to transition care to another provider.

  • Last Reviewed: July 25, 2013
  • Last Edited: October 28, 2013

Articles from Diabetes Forecast® magazine:

Diabetes Forecast