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Thursday, July 9, 2020

20 Things to Take Care of Before Your Student Leaves for College, Even if They're Staying Home


Let's touch on a few practical matters to consider and tend to before they head off (or don't!).  Not all of these will be relevant for every family and many are personal choices.

1. Documents regarding medical records. Once our teens turn 18, their medical information is protected. It's important that your teen set these up for each state (your home state and the state s/he will live in for college): medical proxy or power of attorney. This document allows someone to make medical decisions on his/her behalf in the event s/he cannot make them. In many states, the HIPAA authorization is part of this document. Having a living will is also important for your child (and you!) to give directions for end of life decisions.

2. HIPAA Authorization or HIPAA Release. This document gives permission to healthcare workers to share your information with the people you authorize.

3. Continuing care. For those on medications or seeing counselors, arrange for a continuation of care be fore arriving on campus. Make arrangements for prescriptions and follow up visits. The student health center can be a useful resource to find local professionals who provide the needed services. The student should have a list of prescriptions for any medications, as well as for their glasses or contacts.

4. Medical facilities. Students need to know where the local urgent care and hospital are, along with pharmacies, opticians, and other providers. Check your insurance to find in network providers. Add urgent care phone numbers and addresses in their phone contacts.

5. Insurance cards. Students need to carry their own card(s) for health, dental, and auto insurance cards. While best to have actual cards, having photos of them, front and back, on their phones is another option.

6. Medical history. Students need to know their own history, including vaccinations, surgeries, hospitalizations, allergies, and major injuries and illnesses. If it's complicated, make sure they have a way to access the details, if the need arises.

7. First aid. Have a small first aid kit for their dorm room and/or backpack. Common medications for cold, flu, cuts, etc. should be included. On a related note, for some, the inclusion of sunscreen to avoid and aloe vera to cope with sunburn would be in order.

8. Money. Students need to have ways to access cash, make purchases with a card, and receive paychecks. Have them put locations of no fee ATMs in their phone contacts. Bank routing and account numbers will be needed for direct deposit of paychecks for students who will work while at school. If they are smart, they should arrange a way for parents to transfer funds to their accounts, too.

9. Budget. Sit down with your student and establish a budget for the term, month, week. What will s/he be responsible for? What will you be covering? What happens if something comes up or they spend too much?

10. Social Security Number. Students need to have this number memorized. It will be needed. Teach them to guard it carefully and only give it out when absolutely necessary. Explore identity theft and how thieves get your data so you and your student will know how to protect yourselves.

11. Renter's Insurance. Explore with your student the potential benefits of having it as well as the costs and make a decision about it. Don't forget to decide who will pay for it.

12. Car care. Auto insurance cards will be needed and the company contacted to ensure that everything is in place to cover the student to and from and all around campus. Discuss maintenance such as oil changes and tire rotations as well as larger maintenance needs. Again, who will be financially responsible for which of these costs will need to be discussed.

13. Transportation. Discuss ways to get off campus. Is there a transit system? Does your student know how to use it? Do you need to buy a pass or pay with exact fare? What are the other options? Take time to explore and discuss these options with your student. S/he may not remember everything but will have some idea where to start to look when the need arises.

14. Alcohol. Discuss drunk driving and options for getting home if the friend who drove them is not able to drive them home. Have him or her put an ride-sharing app on his or her phone so there are options if needed. Discuss under age drinking, the impact on relationships, and grades.

15. Grades. As an adult, per FERPA, parents do not have access to student grades. (Be aware that FERPA defines all college students as adults, no matter their age.) For some families, this is not a problem since the child freely shares his or her grades. For others, having the student sign the appropriate documents giving parental access to grades.

16. Financial Aid. Again, per FERPA, school officials cannot speak to parents regarding a student's situation. The financial aid office has a form students can sign which gives them permission to discuss the financial side of things with you. Discuss this with your student.

17. Travel. If flying, consider arranging to expedite their way through security checks. Have a discussion and clearly define who is responsible for arranging and paying for flights. Explore together the options for traveling from the airport to campus. Be sure your student has a "real ID" (in many states, it is denoted by a star on the driver's license or state ID card.). If study abroad is part of his or her college plan, be sure to procure a passport well ahead of time.

18. Emergency contacts. Share your contact information with your student's roommate(s). That way, if there is an emergency, they will know how to reach you (and what your names are!) In turn, get theirs, for exactly the same reason.

19. Stay in Touch. Set up a weekly phone call time or some other routine for checking in with your student. Keeping the lines of communication open will help ground a new student while s/he gets settled in a new place and will enable you both to handle unexpected challenges or needs more smoothly. It will also help set boundaries for those (students and parents!) who want to be in touch all the time. Students need roots; they also need wings.

20. If they are staying home. Have a meeting to discuss the new rules. As a college student, their lifestyle will change. If this is their first year of college, work hard with them to help them sort out how online classes are going to work on their campus, how to organize their time, where they can reach out for help. Create some routines and strategies to help everyone cope with the continued stress of isolation. An exercise and prayer routine as well as regular episodes out in the sun are very helpful. While s/he isn't moving out, they are entering a new chapter of life. Together decide what will change and what won't. Having responsibilities around the house is certainly reasonable; s/he will have responsibilities on campus, once it's open. While some things will change, some things will remain the same. Normally, for example, college students have to determine their own sleep time. However, while living at home, consideration needs to be given for all the members of the family. Work with your student to establish boundaries. S/he needs to learn to use time well. They can't be treated like they were as seniors in high school.

21. One more thing. Files. Teach your child what to keep and how to sort their important papers, both those that come in an envelope and those that are online. Medical information and bills, bank statements, tax information, employer information. Track passwords and websites for key accounts, too.

What 350+ Admissions Deans Say They're Looking for from the Class of 2021

This class has had a year like no other. As they apply for college, major questions are on the lips of everyone.

"I couldn't take the SAT or ACT last Spring. Now most of my schools are test optional. How will my application be viewed? Should I try to get a seat at one of the test dates this Fall? What happens if it's canceled, too?"

"How can I show my capabilities without Spring grades or test scores?"

Rising seniors are also missing those leadership activities and summer camps they had worked toward and planned on. Differentiating themselves from the other applicants will be more challenging without them.

Parents and students across the country are concerned. Clearly, this year's applications will look different from those of previous years.

College Admissions Deans Are Well Aware That This Year is DIFFERENT!

Harvard's Graduate School of Education put out a statement endorsed by over 350 admissions deans. (Read it here.)

Here are the top five values they identified:

1. Self-care - "We encourage all students to be gentle with themselves at this time." First and foremost, take care of yourself. It's a stressful time. Students are essential workers. Some have found themselves using their part time job's wages to help pay for the basics for their families. Everyone is disoriented by the many changes everyone is experiencing on an almost daily basis. Be good to yourself. Take walks. Exercise. Rest. Eat healthy foods. Pray. Read. Write a letter to a friend (on paper!) Take vitamins. Take care of a plant or a pet. Journal. Breathe. And, most certainly, don't freak out about application season! Work with a planner or coach, get help and support, allow yourself ample time to write your essays.

2. Academics - "No student will be disadvantaged because of a change in commitments or a change in plans because of this outbreak, their school’s decisions about transcripts, the absence of AP or IB tests, their lack of access to standardized tests..., or their inability to visit campus." They will read your application in context. Use the COVID 19 essay prompt to share the facts of your changed reality so they understand what your world has looked like since March.

3. Service - "What matters to us is whether students’ contribution or service is authentic and meaningful to them and to others, whether that contribution is writing regular notes to frontline workers or checking in with neighbors who are isolated. We will assess these contributions and service in the context of the obstacles students are facing. We also care about what students have learned from their contributions to others about themselves, their communities, and/or their country." While COVID has created many opportunities to serve, not everyone is able to do so. Authenticity, always the key factor in admissions, remains central. Be yourself. Be your best self. Don't do anything to try to impress admissions. Just be you, the real, wonderful, amazing you.

4. Family Contributions - "We view substantial family contributions as very important, and we encourage students to report them in their applications. It will only positively impact the review of their application during this time."  Some students have significant responsibilities at home while others do not. If you do, be sure to include them on your application. So often students don't think they are important or will be valued. They feel like they are at a disadvantage because they can't participate in other activities since they are busy at home. That isn't the case. As an example, I worked with a young man a couple of years ago whose only extracurricular was taking care of his grandmother and his mom. Mom had been taking care of Grandma then got injured at work and needed care. The student was responsible for making sure they were fed and got their medications on time, in addition to taking care of the house and doing all the cooking and the dishes. That's a lot of responsibility for a 16 year old! At my direction, he included it on his application and was accepted at a top honors college.

5. Extracurriculars & Summer Activities - "No student will be disadvantaged for not engaging in extracurricular activities. We also understand that many plans for summer have been impacted by this pandemic, and students will not be disadvantaged for lost possibilities for involvement." When you think about it, this is the only fair response to what's happened. It's such a relief to have them say it publicly, isn't it?

Remember, admissions staff has been working from home and had their lives altered significantly, too. So, keep in mind what is really important. Take good care of yourself. Take care of those you love. Help those you can when and how you can. And be your best self. But don't sweat the small stuff. Your intelligence, creativity, resilience, etc. will shine through, despite the impacts of the pandemic.