Sending a teen to college is a big moment in your family’s life, but it is also filled with forms, logistics, and plans. You may be thinking about what to buy for their dorm room or what to say to them as you leave, but we want to touch on a few practical matters you should consider before you drive away. Not all of these are relevant to all families, and many are personal choices, but here are a few things to consider. 

What to do before your freshman leaves home for college

1. Documents to allow parents access to medical records. Once our teens turn 18 their medical information is protected for their own privacy. In some families this is fine. In other families parents and teens agree that parents may need access to some or all records.

2. A way to transfer money. You may or may not need to give your student funds during the semester but when you do it may be an urgent situation. Make sure that before they leave for college you have a way to transfer money between accounts or through a service like Venmo.

3. Continuing medical or psychological care. Students with preexisting medical or psychological conditions who will need ongoing care will need to arrange that in advance of arriving on campus. Student health centers can be helpful in suggesting local resources and clarifying what services they make available. Contact them before the semester begins.

4. Find local urgent care or emergency room. If the student health center is not 24 hours and even if it is, you should find a local medical center that will accept your family’s health insurance and will not result in an enormous out-of-pocket bill. Have your student store the Urgent care and Emergency Room phone numbers and addresses in their contacts.

5. Insurance Cards. Make sure they have their own health and dental insurance cards, with photos front and back, in their phone.

6. Social Security Number. Let them memorize this number—they will need it.

7. Consider renter’s insurance. This is a good moment for your teen to learn about insurance and compare policies and costs.

8. Eyes. Get duplicates of your teen’s eyeglass or contact prescriptions.

9. First Aid. Create a small first aid kit with relevant medications and first-aid treatments.

10. Flying. If flying, consider getting them a known traveler number to expedite 4 years of airport journeys.

11. Ride-sharing. Ride-sharing gift card for “emergency” rides when needed. Our teens will swear up and down that neither they nor their friends will drink and drive. But adolescent impulse control is far from perfect. Give them some ride-sharing funds to keep them safe.

12. Medical Information. Make sure your students are familiar with their own medical history. Yes, they can call or text you at intake but this is information they will always need. Make sure they have all the details of any surgeries, allergies or illnesses they have had.

13. Roommate’s Contact Details. Share contact information with your teen’s roommate-to-be for use in an emergency situation.

14. Travel Needs. Make sure they have a passport.

15. Prescriptions. Consider how they will get their prescriptions, new ones or those preexisting, filled locally. Explore if there is a local 24 hour pharmacy.

16. FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act means that you will not automatically have access to your student’s grades. For some families this works, for others parental access is important. Sign the appropriate documents that will enable you to see their grades.

17. Budgeting. Talk about budgeting. For freshmen living in the dorms this might be simple with just a tiny budget for extras like pizza and an occasional meal out. But for upperclassmen this is a great chance to break down living expenses and show them how to plan for their spending around rent, car, insurance, food, and entertainment so they  get a realistic picture of their spending before the semester begins.

Article by Lisa Endlich Heffernan | May 23, 2021