Type 1 and uni life

University years are some of the best.

Going to university for the first time is a huge change, and often means new friends, new living arrangements, new routines and new independence.

There are a few things to think about so you can manage your diabetes and get the most out of uni life.


Emma's story

Emma gives her tips on handling new friendships, new house shares and new routines.

Tom's story

Tom on how support from his uni helped him with the ups and downs of diabetes and student life.

Kaja's story

Kaja had to adapt to uni life with diabetes, after being diagnosed in her first term.




Alcohol is often a big part of uni life. Find out more about managing Type 1 when you're drinking.

University eating

Read our tips for healthy eating on a budget and planning meals when you're out and about.

Sex and relationships

Watch our videos all about Type 1, sex and relationships – and those awkward moments we all go through!

Need support?

Diabetes UK Helpline

Got a question about Type 1 and university? You can talk to us about any aspect of uni life – including getting settled in, moving diabetes team, accessing student support, coping with study stress or managing your Type 1 diabetes on nights out.

And we know that starting university means big changes for parents too. If you want to talk to us, we’re here.

Find out more



Your tips

We asked students and graduates with Type 1 to share some of their best uni tips – from speaking to student services to making the most of the social life.



Speak to student services


“Talk to your student support service. I found mine were really supportive.

"I was given a mini fridge for my insulin, a dictaphone so I could record lectures if I was having a hypo and a laptop from the disabled student allowance."

Sarah studied primary education in Chester.





Hours of lecture = hypos


“It can be hard enough to stay awake through hours of lectures in hot, crowded rooms.

"Once I felt myself starting to nod off. I struggled through, but when I got up to leave at the end I couldn't walk. I felt really dizzy and had to sit back down. I tested my blood sugar and it was the lowest it's ever been.

"Moral of the story: if you're in hours of lectures, do regular blood tests as it's harder to spot a hypo when you're sitting still. And always take plenty of hypo treatments with you."

Patsy was diagnosed when she was 12 and studied Theatre Arts with English at the University of Derby.

Tom studying at university

Diabetes and uni life can run you down


“Tell academic support that you have diabetes so they can put a study plan in place.

"I do miss lectures sometimes. Type 1 diabetes can run you down and leave you feeling exhausted. If I wake up with low blood sugars I feel grumpy for a few hours. Sometimes I’ll treat my hypo and have breakfast but then end up too high and need to spend a few hours sorting it out. By midday I’m exhausted.

"There will be times at uni when you need time and space to focus on yourself and get your head back on track. I have days where I aim to get my blood sugar under control – nothing else. You can get tired of constantly having to put your diabetes second.

"I'm entitled to week-long extensions on deadlines and a week longer for library loans. All my lectures are recorded and my lecturers are also really supportive and available outside of lectures if I need to chat or catch up."


Sian at her graduation

Anything is achievable


“I missed eight weeks of university when I was first diagnosed.

"When I returned, there was so much that needed to be sorted. I had to go see my new GP, inform my department and catch up on all the work that I missed.

"The university were extremely supportive. They gave me extensions to get my work in and were on-hand to help me catch up. I was given my own room for exams so I could take breaks to test my blood sugar or treat a hypo. I was pretty chuffed to hand in my dissertation a day early!

"Although my diagnosis was difficult, my university were fantastic. I graduated with BSc (Hons) in Psychlogy in 2015 and went on to complete my Masters in Eating Disorders and Clinical Nutrition at UCL this year (2017). Having diabetes does not mean there are things you cannot do. As long as you manage the condition, anything is achievable!"

Sian was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in her second year of university.


Kaja at university

Get support with exams


“One of my first hypos was 20 minutes before an exam.

"I treated it but didn't feel 100 per cent throughout the exam, as is usual after a hypo. I spoke to student services and they were really supportive and gave me the option to resit exams without it affecting my final grade if I needed to.

"My lecturers were really understanding if I ever needed to eat in a lecture or leave for a few minutes because I was feeling unwell.

"I didn't end up needing to resit any as I was pleased to get a 2:1 for my first year, but it was reassuring to know I had that option."

Kaja was diagnosed during her first term at university.



Embrace it all


“Embrace it all.... but with some moderation.

"Type 1 diabetes doesn't stop you doing anything at uni. But there's no getting away from the fact that it does have large impact on your life, especially if things go wrong.

"It's really important that you talk about your condition to the people you'll be spending most time with, whether that's on a night out, on the sports field, in a lecture or just chilling in the flat. I explained the signs and symptoms of a hypo, and made sure they knew what to do in an emergency situation. It was almost like running education sessions on the condition! They were great though and luckily didn't have to deal with any emergencies while I was at uni.

"By managing your Type 1 and making sure your mates can support you if they need to, you can enjoy all the things the rest of the student population are!"

Chris studied Sports Studies at the University of Worcester and is now a Wales Futsal International player.



You've got this


“I was diagnosed with Type 1 a few months into uni, and it's been the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with.

"I knew what it was like to experience uni life without Type 1. It wasn't easy going back after Christmas and having to adapt to the condition while trying to keep up with my friends.

"It's been a rough year of countless hypos, missed lectures and feeling unwell. At first I thought I wouldn't get my old life back. But as I learn more about how to live with the condition, I'm starting to feel like me again.

"If I ever need inspiration, I look to my 17-year-old sister who also has Type 1, and know that I can do this. I'm looking forward to proving that I can achieve everything I want to as I start my next year at uni."

Lauren was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a few months after starting university.



Honesty is the best policy


“Talk to your diabetes team honestly about drinking so they can give you advice.

"Going out drinking is a rite of passage for many freshers. Make sure you've got the information you need about Type 1 and drinking, including dose adjustments and the importance of eating something before you go out and at the end of the night.

"And talk to your new flatmates and uni friends about Type 1 diabetes. Explain what it is, what the signs of a hypo are and how to deal with one. It may sound obvious to you, but they may never have come across Type 1 before and will want to know how to help you if they ever need to."

Rosie-may was diagnosed with Type 1 in the third year of her degree.



Your true friends will go the extra mile to help you


"If I ever had a hypo on a night out, my friends would run off to get me a coke and take it in turns to sit with me until I recovered.

"Whenever someone was getting a round in, they always knew what to get me, and would argue with the bar staff if they poured me a normal coke rather than diet!

"Never feel ashamed to inject or test in front of people. I used to whip out my testing kit on the dance floor while one of my friends held my meter. It became part of our normal routine on nights out."



Don't bottle things up


“For the first few weeks I tried to downplay my Type 1.

"I felt really nervous about telling my new flatmates I had Type 1. I didn't want to be seen as different. On our first night together we were pre-drinking before a night out and I knew I had to say something in case I had a hypo later on.

"Even though I brought it up on that first night, it took me a few weeks to be fully open about how Type 1 affects me. In my third week I got really ill. My blood sugar levels were all over the place due to new routines, stress and hangovers. I wasn't eating properly and developed a major fear of overnight hypos.

"After a trip to A&E, I decided to be upfront with my flatmates. I told them how ill I was feeling and how much I was struggling with my condition. They were all so lovely about it and offered to keep checking on me. I felt so much better knowing they had my back."

Beth was diagnosed when she was four and is studying podiatry at the University of Northampton.



Eating on campus can have its challenges...


“There wasn't any nutritional information for a lot of the food I was eating, which made carb counting very difficult.

"I would recommend buying the Carbs and Cals app. It costs £4.99 but for me it was totally worth it. I could type in the foods that I was eating, choose my portion size and get a carb count. And you can customise it. I found that the hot chocolate I drank every morning needed one unit of insulin, so I added that to the app. It’s time-consuming at the beginning, but once it’s set up it’s less hassle in the long run.”

Megan was diagnosed with Type 1 in April 2017, during her Occupational Therapy MSc.


Tips for living with new people



“Moving into shared housing can be daunting, exciting and nerve-wrecking. Here are my tips:

  1. Tell your new housemates about your diabetes – you might need their help at some point so it’s best to be open and honest.
  2. A simple myth-buster can help educate and avoid any insensitive comments early on.
  3. Tell your housemates where you keep your emergency hypo treatment or glucagon.
  4. Give them a brief description of how high and low blood sugars affect your behaviour and mood.
  5. Make sure everyone understands that you need a bit of extra space in the fridge for insulin.
  6. Give them a brief demonstration of any robotic bits such as insulin pumps, pens, CGMs, flash – anything that might make strange noises!
  7. Have the alcohol talk – it might save you.
  8. Talk about the psychological side of diabetes, and how it can make you fatigued / irritable / tired / all of the above.
  9. Encourage healthier household activities or evenings out like playing tennis or bowling rather than always eating takeaway or going to the pub.
  10. Just have fun! Living with other people teaches you a lot about yourself (diabetes or not).

These are all things that I’ve done or wish I’d done in the past while living with other people. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll find great housemates who'll sleep on your bedroom floor after a night out just in case you have a bad hypo!"

Charlotte was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 25 years ago, at the age of 3.


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