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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.

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