With spring on the horizon, many high school students are researching colleges and gearing up for campus visits. In addition to questions about academic majors and dorm life, students living with diabetes may also wonder how the transition to college life will affect their diabetes management. To address some of those topics, we’ve featured some tips for college students and Amanda Mezer shared her experience. I thought it might be helpful to also talk to a college student who recently made the big move, so I called upon Nolan Crosson for an update.
When we last talked with Nolan in 2011, he was a high school student and accomplished athlete, active in lacrosse, surfing and golf. In fall 2013, Nolan started college at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., taking Liberal Studies courses. “It’s a very small school and I love Santa Barbara, so those were the deciding factors for me,” he said. “I’ll be honest, being diabetic did not really play into my decision to go here. In fact, none of the schools I looked at really had specific diabetes resources, other than the general health center on campus. I was more looking for the overall experience.”
To prepare for moving to college, Nolan took a proactive approach. “Knowing I’d have to move away from home, I tried to be more self-sufficient and deal with my diabetes self-management over the course of the last couple of years,” he said. “I tried to do as much as I could on my own to help prepare myself, like making my own doctor appointments. It also involved my parents not being there with me, and not telling me when I needed to test or eat. I made a point to really put it on myself to make my own schedule and keep myself healthy.”
One thing that Nolan has found helpful in his diabetes self-management is a continuous glucose monitor. “I have a continuous glucose monitor that I wear from time to time,” he said. “That really helps with being able to configure my pump setting. The continuous glucose monitor is a big resource for helping keep me on track.”
Nolan also appreciates staying in touch with his healthcare team at home. “My school’s only about four hours away, so I’m able to continue working with the team back home,” he said. “With appointments being every three months or so, I’m able to go home for an appointment, if need be, fairly quickly. It definitely helps having the same team because then I don’t need to develop a relationship with a new doctor. My doctor has known me as long as I’ve had diabetes. There’s a strong relationship there. It’s definitely easier not having to build that relationship again.”
For Nolan, the biggest difference between life at home and life at college has been a matter of time. “Life in college is so much more about good time management,” he said. “You’re living on your own for the first time. You’re going to need to learn how to manage your time, especially if you’re diabetic.”
The adjustment to college life has its challenges. “Because you’re still trying to figure out your whole schedule, it’s sometimes hard to focus on your diabetic responsibilities. It’s easy to forget to test your blood sugar for too long, or eat food that is not good for you, or high in carbs. You have to be careful because I think a lot of things have a lot more carbs than they would seem. Something I’d do differently is probably test my blood sugar even more than I did my first semester. The glucose monitor also helps me keep my blood sugar on track.”
A routine can help, according to Nolan. “College students tend to eat erratically, so it helped me to build a schedule of when to eat,” he said. “I’m on a cafeteria meal plan that makes it pretty easy to have a meal schedule. It also helps to have a daily schedule that you follow. You do your homework about this time each day, and play sports in the afternoon. Now that I’m in my second semester, I know more about roughly how much time my classes will take me. It’s been easier to get into a schedule than it was last semester.”
Talking to people about diabetes has proved to be a non-issue for Nolan. “I have a medical bracelet, so people see that and ask what it is. It’s an easy way to tell them I’m a diabetic,” he said. “Or I like to say, ‘Hey, I’m diabetic,’ if people see me testing my blood sugar. I told some of my professors that I was diabetic, and I made sure my RA and our Resident Director knew but there were no discussions about being diabetic beyond that.”
One thing that has remained the same in college is Nolan’s love of sports. Playing on the school’s rugby team demands about six hours in practices during the week, plus games on Saturdays. “I told the guys on the team that I’m diabetic, just as a heads-up, and they were all positive about that,” he said. “They were like, ‘That’s awesome that you’re coming out here to play rugby.’ They were supportive.”
I love Throwback Thursday posts and getting to hear the latest from people we’ve previously featured. It’s like touching base with an old friend. It sounds like Nolan is settling in nicely at school; I’m glad to hear he’s found some ways to help smooth the transition. My thanks to him for sharing the update to his story.
All the best,
Disclosure: Nolan Crosson received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.