Creating a checklist for college freshmen should really have two categories. It is pretty basic but I divide the categories into the dorm room checklist and the student legal checklist. Both are equally important but the later topic is one that is often overlooked and not known about.
Now that graduation is over, many college bound students will be hitting the department stores with the goal of making their future dorm room their second home. There are many websites a family can visit today to get great ideas for dorm rooms. Your child’s future college may also have ideas and will be able to supply you with the room dimensions. The EFC PLUS website also has a packing list that you can print if you need additional packing ideas. The most important tip I can share is to definitely contact your future roommate early to avoid duplicates.
A lot of time is spent putting the dorm room together but there are other items that need to be thought about before your child leaves for college. I call this category the student’s legal checklist. These items are often over looked by both parents and students. Most college bound students are of legal or adult age. This means that some rules now change even though they are still on your insurance and are included as dependents on your taxes. These items include medical, legal, banking, and insurance items that should be checked before your child leaves for college.
What does this mean as a parent? It means that you really have no right to see their grades, make medical decisions or speak with their doctor. This can be very upsetting if something happens and you are not allowed access to their information.
We often talk about having your child be accountable for their educational process. This means having an open discussion of the cost of the education as well as realistic expectations about future outcome of the education. Most parents are unaware of the privacy right the students have once in college. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law that deals with the privacy of a student’s educational records. Parents can obtain a FERPA release so that they are able to speak to their child’s college about their educational record. Before this is obtained you will need your child’s permission. This release is often found within the student portal under their student ID. In divorce or separated situations, the non-custodial parent may have a harder time getting this access.
Medically, your child will be required to get the appropriate boosters so that they can enter college. It is recommended that you have a signed HIPAA authorization form for your child. What you need to do is have the HIPAA Authorization signed by your child giving your permission to speak to their doctor if they should get sick while they are away at college. It is important to be able to get access to their health records in case of emergency.
Another medical form that you may want to consider signing is called HCPOA or Health Care Power of Attorney. Hopefully, you will never need this while your child is away at school. The HCPOA will allow a parent to be named as the individual who will have the power to act on their adult child’s behalf if they are sick and incapable of making decisions themselves. Please see your family lawyer for this information.
This summer many of the college bound students have a scheduled freshman orientation date. Besides getting to know the college, students should try to identify a bank or the ATM machines that are on or near campus. This is done for three major reasons: safety, convenience and avoidance of bank fees. Often, banks have special student bank accounts that are designed for the college student and give parents access to transfer money. A call ahead of time can also give you this information and allow you to be better prepared. You may also want to establish a link with your bank account and theirs in case funds need to be transferred quickly.
Before orientation ends and the student leaves for home we like to recommend that your child knows where all the major college building are located. The student should know where the financial aid office, career center and medical building are located. A personal story from my own family occurred during move in day with our own daughter. We had spent the day unpacking and around 2 that day she told me she was sick. She was attending a large state school and of course we had no idea where the medical office was located or the office hours. Luckily, it was open and we got the care that was needed an hour before the office closed for the day.
Another item on our list deals with insurance. Colleges require students to have medical insurance. Depending on your situation the health insurance the school offers may be adequate or you can leave them on your plan. What you need to make sure is you are not paying for both. Many colleges will include this in their bill if you do not prove that the student has coverage. Review your bill to make sure you are not being charged for something you already have.
A lot of money is spent on the physical items needed to make a successful transition to college. Some of these items like the personal computer and TV are expensive. Whether your child is in a dorm or an off campus apartment you should consider protecting their property. Check and see if your homeowner’s insurance will cover their possessions or if you need further coverage. The new computer equipment can be expensive if you need to replace it. Make sure you review the cost and deductibles before purchasing these policies. If your child will be living off campus you may also want to look into some type of renters insurance depending on their situation and valuables that they will have at school.
The last item deals also with car insurance. It is often overlooked but may save you a little money. Most freshmen are not allowed a car on campus. If you child will not be taking a car you may want to check if a discount on your auto rate is eligible while they are living at school. There is normally a distance requirement to get that college student discount.
College is a great time of learning and growing. It is also a great time of transition for families. A little preplanning can help to give families the peace of mind that unforeseen problems can have easier solutions. I had three girls leave and complete college. With each one it was a little different but all required a transition on both our parts.