Get organized and be prepared! Here are 8 essential things that parents should do now to get started.
Congratulations, your child has been accepted into college. Now, as parents, there are many things that you need to do. Being informed, prepared and organized makes a world of difference.
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. Take the time to write the point of contact person, email addresses and phone numbers on the inside of each file.
Open and respond to all letters and email. Be on the lookout for all forms of communication including: Health Forms, Housing Information, New Student Orientation, and the Tuition bill. The college will treat your son or daughter as an adult and all communications including the tuition bill will come to him or her in the mail and to their school email. Make sure your child knows to share all of these with you as they arrive.
As the documents and forms arrive during the spring and summer, respond to them promptly and make sure that copies are made of documents and IMMEDIATELY put into the appropriate file.
Book a doctor’s appointment for your child. Start gathering all of your child’s medical information and book a doctor’s appointment. Health forms will require a physical examination and the physician’s record of vaccinations and immunizations sent in before classes start.
Contact your health insurance company now and determine if your child will be covered while at college. If so, ask for a separate insurance card in your child’s name or a letter stating that you/they have coverage. You will need this documentation to opt out of any insurance coverage fees that some colleges automatically assess on a tuition bill.
Create a Health Care Proxy and/or Power of Attorney. HIPAA, enacted 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.
Select the dorm room and send in your 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 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 your 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 or, worse, not being housed at all.
Reserve a space in the summer New Student Orientation. Soon after your deposit is received, you will be receiving 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.
Pay the Tuition Bill. It’s important that parents know that they 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 certifications 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.
Have your child assist in getting organized. Students need to develop both good organizational skills as well as begin to take on some of the responsibilities they will be facing when they move away from home.
By starting now to get a handle on what lies ahead, parents can avoid feeling overwhelmed as the time to actually send their child off to college nears.
Marie Carr is the mother of 3 college-age daughters (her co-authors). She has spent the last eight years sending them to 4 different schools and study abroad programs. She has been an active participant on three college parent councils and coached hundreds of parents of college bound students. She shares this knowledge in Sending Your Child to College: The Prepared Parent’s Operational Manual (2009, Dicmar Publishing). Her goal was to create a handbook to help parents deal with the nitty-gritty details of sending their child off to college.