Touring Colleges with T1D in Mind

Emma Fleet, Bishop Fenwick High School

I was diagnosed with T1D when I was three years old. That was almost fourteen years ago, and I am currently a senior in high school. Over the summer, I interned at the College Diabetes Network (CDN) headquarters in Boston. After my internship, I shifted my focus into my college applications. Like every other part of my life, diabetes had to be factored into my choices.

My first college tour was during the summer before my junior year. In the year and a half since then, I can honestly say that my views on college have changed entirely. Many of the schools I expected to like ending up being completely wrong for me. On the flip side, I fell in love with schools that I didn't even want to tour. After going on a few tours, I learned to go with my gut. If I could imagine myself going to the school, it was put on the application list. If I didn’t feel like it was a good fit, it was cut from the list. All that being said, I followed the advice that every high schooler hears: to have reach, match, and safety schools. I have applied to twelve schools in total and they are spread out among these categories. I made an effort to make sure that I felt that I could be happy at any of these twelve, even if they were my safety schools, because no one can predict what the admissions committees will decide.

As far as looking at schools went, I gave little thought to diabetes, other than to check that each school had some form of a health center and disabilities office. The obstacles I have faced so far were mainly around standardized testing. I took both the SAT and ACT and had accommodations for each test. The process of receiving accommodations is more intense than I expected and it took weeks for everything to be processed. For the ACT, you indicate a need for accommodations while registering for a test and you will receive an email with instructions on how to proceed.

For the SAT, there is an area of the Collegeboard website titled “Services for Students with Disabilities” that explains the request process.

Both tests require documentation (I used my 504 and a letter from my endocrinologist) and approval from your school. My advice to parents and teenagers is to apply for accommodations well before taking the test. Both the Collegeboard and ACT gave me the accommodations I asked for but it took time for the request to be reviewed.

Once I had decided on a final list of schools, I had to tackle the personal statement and supplemental essays. Before starting my applications, I had not given much thought to whether or not it mattered to me if the schools I applied to knew I had T1D. After realizing that much of my resume was made up of diabetes related work, like my CDN internship, I knew that writing about diabetes for some of my essays was the right choice for me. Although I avoided talking about T1D in my personal statement, I did focus some of my supplements on diabetes. For example, I responded to a question about what inspires me and how I plan to create change by telling the story of how I became involved in the diabetes community. As nervous as I am about admissions officers reading my essays, I am proud of what I wrote.

If there is one thing I want teens with diabetes and their parents to take away from this, it is that applying to college with T1D is absolutely possible. Thanks to CDN and my healthcare team, I knew what to look for in potential schools. I also knew that I can go anywhere and do just about anything I want to. I cannot wait to decide and tell you all where I will be going next fall!


Emma is freshman at Boston College. She was a CDN summer intern as well as a member of the American Diabetes Association Youth Leaders. Emma plans on attending medical school in the future and would love to study abroad in London or Rome.