Congratulations, your child has been accepted into college. In addition to getting organized, the following are six essential things that parents need to do to be prepared for this next step.
CREATE A FILING SYSTEM
Purchase and label folders such as: Bank Accounts, College Brochures, Finances, Housing, Meal Plan, Medical, New Student Orientation, Power of Attorney, Student Information, Tuition and Travel. As the documents and forms arrive during the summer, respond to them making sure that copies are made of documents and IMMEDIATELY file them. This includes checks and all other forms of payments. Take the time to write the point of contact person and phone numbers on the inside of the appropriate file. Should an emergency arise, you will easily locate the correct person to call. In your Student Information folder, gather and add your child’s “student ID number”, mailing address (which is different from their dorm address), address where you can ‘next day’ something (which may be different from the mailing address), names and phone numbers of the roommates, Resident Advisor, nearest hospital, etc.
BOOK A DOCTOR’S
APPOINTMENT FOR YOUR CHILD
Health Forms will require a physical examination and the physician’s record of vaccinations and immunizations sent in before classes start. Start gathering all of your child’s medical information and book a doctor’s appointment.
GET COVERAGE CONFIRMATION
Contact your health and property insurance companies to determine if your child and their possessions will be covered while away from your home area and in the state where your child will be living as a student. Ask for a separate insurance card in your child’s name or a letter stating that you have coverage. You will need this documentation to opt out of any insurance coverage fees that some colleges automatically assess on a tuition bill. Ask if laptops, computers, blackberries, etc will need a separate property insurance rider. If your child is living ‘off campus’, you might need to purchase a separate policy.
CREATE A HEALTH CARE PROXY AND/OR POWER OF ATTORNEY
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), enacted by Congress in 1996, requires that all medical information and records be strictly confidential. As a college parent, this means that you will not be able to voice your opinion to any clinician about your child’s medical care or have access to their medical records, x-rays, etc. If your child is sick or hospitalized, you’ll need a college/university, or state health care proxy on file to direct the medical care or be able to speak to the treating doctor about the condition of your child. Parents can find and download these boilerplate forms from the web. Some colleges and states will require parents to use specific medical waivers. These documents will need to be notarized in the presence of 2 witnesses. Often, banks and colleges offer notarization for free but will require you to bring your own 2 witnesses.
PAY THE TUITION BILL AND RESERVE YOUR DORM ROOM WITH A DEPOSIT
It’s important that parents know that you may never see the tuition bill that must be paid because it will be sent in your child’s name to the address they have given. Some colleges send their bills to the student’s college email account. Parents should read the bill carefully. There is often a charge for health insurance that you can opt out of with the proper certification from your insurance companies. Parents also need to be aware that tuition bills must be received and processed by the institution’s “due date” which is not the same as a postmark or guaranteed delivery date.
Students also need to select the dorm room and send in their deposit. You will want to respond as soon as possible with your deposit and questionnaire that the college Housing Department will send. Just as in life, college housing has a pecking order, freshmen are typically the last served in a “first come, first served” format. Regrettably, some colleges can not house all of their incoming freshmen in their dormitories and failure to return the form and the deposit in a timely fashion can have the detrimental impact of your child being put on a waiting list, being housed in temporary living situations the first semester for the overflow at a hotel or satellite location or, worse, not being housed at all.
RESERVE A SPACE IN THE SUMMER NEW STUDENT ORIENTATION
Soon after your deposit is received to reserve your child’s space, you will receive information about New Student Orientation. All schools offer a first year student orientation. Some schools offer this during the summer and others offer it between the day you move in and the day classes start. Immediately consult your child and your calendar and register as soon as possible. There are always some weekends that are more popular than others. These programs have been created and designed to help students acclimate to life at college and ensure that they enjoy and benefit from their initial year in college. Sometimes these sessions include registering for the first semester’s classes as well as taking certain college placement tests. I highly recommend parents attend any optional programs for parents that run concurrently.
Marie Carr kept careful track of everything she learned the hard way as her three daughters went off to college. In her book, Sending Your Child to College: The Prepared Parent’s Operational Manual, published last month, Carr has assembled an amazing amount of important information in an easy-to-use format. All parents of a college-bound student (whether this is their first year or their fourth) will find useful information in this handbook—both for the “getting ready” phase and for quick reference later.