Paying for College and Diabetes…here’s help!

I’ve written before about the cost of diabetes, emotionally, physically and financially and my hope is to one day, feel like I’m treading water instead of drowning under medical bills. I’m glad that our boys are in public school right now, and my husband and I often have mock panic attacks when we hear parents talk about paying for college tuitions. Like Scarlet O’Hara, I’ll think about that another day!

However, many parents and future college students are busy figuring out how to pay for tuition come fall, and for students with diabetes, I have a great resource.

Founded in 2004 by a group of parents with diabetic children, The Diabetes Scholars Foundation provides 20-25, $5,000 college scholarships per year. President Mary Podjasek (who has a daughter and husband with type 1 diabetes) says the selection process is extremely competitive. One of the DSF recipients is Stony Brook University student Kaitlyn Karlya who agreed to speak with me about college life, and what it was like to receive a scholarship from the DSF.

Kaitlyn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in September 1992 at the age of 2, and will be 22 in April, 2012.

1. Do you have a personal philosophy of living with chronic illness? By this I mean, what is your approach to diabetes management? less is more? constant blood sugar testing? moderation? live life to its fullest? etc. etc.

My personal philosophy of living with a chronic condition is that either you take control of it, or it will take control of you. Sometimes you will have days that you need to work harder at it that others, and sometimes you will have a stretch of time that you don’t need to make any adjustments. But if you accept that it’s going to be a lifelong adventure, then you can adjust and deal with the blood sugar swings well. Just live your life and realize that this is part of you, but it does not define who you are. Oh- and make sure you have a great support system.  And you can’t beat yourself up if you’re having a bad diabetes day.

2. Do you feel like diabetes has held you back at all when it comes to education and what are you studying?

Diabetes has not held me back from anything- there have had to be adjustments and patience, but I have done everything academically that I have ever wanted to.  Again, if you understand that this is going to be a part of you, you will incorporate diabetes into your life instead of your life into diabetes.

3. How did you hear about the diabetes scholars foundation? How has this recognition been helpful to you?

I heard about the Diabetes Scholars Foundation through the Children with Diabetes Conferences. Before I graduated from high school I applied for the scholarship and when I heard that I got it I thought it was great! It was such a help with all of the expenses college can accumulate. I go to the Children with Diabetes Conferences every summer and work with the children and answer any questions people may have. I also recently became an Animas Diabetes Hero and do monthly v-blogs to share my experiences.

 4. How do you manage your diabetes as a college student? What are the challenges of living away from home?

I graduate from Stony Brook University in New York in May, and although I did not live in a dorm, commuting has made me have to make some diabetes adjustments. The amount of time behind the wheel has made me make sure my “low box” is fully stocked in my car. When I know my class will be three hours long I can alter my basal as needed and make sure that I carry plenty of juice on me…

Thanks so much to Kaitlyn for sharing her story. I’ll be writing more about this topic (soon!) on the Diabetes Monitor Website.

To find out more about the DSF go to:

Diabetes Scholars Foundation

Diabetes Scholars Foundation
2118 Plum Grove Road
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008

V: 312-215-9861 
F: 847-991-8739

Application Package, including Letters of Recommendations, must be received in full by May 15, 2012.

The winners of the 2011 scholarships will be telephoned by June 1, 2011.

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