By now, the dorms are filled, and a new fall semester is underway. However, you can still take care of these often-overlooked details for your college student.
If you were so busy focusing on the logistics of getting your student off to college, that you didn't have time to get to the details below, now is the time to get it done. As listed in this article from nj.com, “Don't let your kid go to college without these 10 things,” these are important for your student and you to have in place.
- Health Insurance Information. Most colleges offer some free health services to students. However, that might not be enough for most healthcare needs, especially for emergencies. Even if the student is on your plan, the coverage may not be enough, if the student goes to college in a different state. The possible need for out-of-network care could get very pricy. Ask your insurance company to calculate how the student's bills would be covered. You should also take a look at any insurance offered by the school.
- A Local Providers List. An out-of-state student can get an annual check-up when she's home for the summer, but some medical needs may not conform to the times when they're home. Before students get to campus, prepare a list of local care providers who take your insurance.
- Durable Power of Attorney and Healthcare Proxy. When your student was a minor child, as the parent, you had the right to receive information about his medical care, and you were authorized to make medical decisions on his behalf. Remember that, when your child reaches the age of majority, you lose those rights. That's why it's critical for your student to sign durable power of attorney and healthcare proxy documents. These two documents will authorize you to make financial and healthcare decisions for your student, and to get information about his care. Ask an estate planning attorney to create these documents for you. It's well worth it. Also have them create a HIPPA release that allows you to speak to the medical providers and to access medical records. Take a picture of these documents and have them on your cell phone. If there is an emergency, you will be able to show them to the medical provider and get right in to see your child.
- A Budget. Aside from how to pay tuition, students need to have a plan for other expenses, like textbooks, pizza, and toothpaste. Create an estimated budget with all possible expenses and examine discretionary costs.
- A Money Back-Up Plan. You know that even with a great prepared budget, there may be times when Junior calls home asking for money. A slick way to transfer funds to your student is to have a linked bank account. You can easily transfer money from your account to his.
- A Credit Card. Credit cards in college take some discipline. Help your student find one credit card with a low available balance. She can use the card for a few regular expenses each month, which are accounted for in your budget. You should stress the importance of paying on time, every time. That will help to build a strong credit score. With a solid credit history, after graduation it will help her get an apartment or a car loan.
- Renter's Insurance. Ask your homeowner's insurance company about how and if your student's possessions will be covered by your policy when she moves into a college dorm. Most policies will give coverage but be sure it's not limited. If it's not as comprehensive as you'd like, you should consider purchasing an additional renter's policy, especially if the student is living in an apartment instead of a dorm.
- An Emergency List. Create a shared online document that has all the student's essential information, so you can both easily access it. It should include the student's bank and credit card account numbers and how to contact the bank, if the cards are lost or stolen. You should also have college contact information, like a student ID number and account information for financial aid and student loans. Think about a more comprehensive listing for your student to keep track of passwords and account information. If there's a time that they need you to access their information, it may be difficult without password information.
- A Local Buddy. If your kid's going to college far from home, see if you can find a friendly face for her near the college. It could be a Facebook friend from high school who lives near campus. Maybe your sister's college roommate has a relative there. It's reassuring to have another responsible adult as an emergency contact, particularly if the parents are many hours away from campus. Introduce your student to this person, even if it's only over email, and make sure they have each other's numbers—just in case. Your student may even get a couple of free home-cooked dinners from it. You should also be sure that you have a phone number for your student's roommates or friends—just in case you urgently need to contact your student, but he is not answering your texts.
- Absentee Ballot. When your student turns 18, she's a prospective voter. Make sure your student applies for an absentee ballot and exercises her new right!
Your student may want to wave away your concerns about these details, but if an emergency occurs you and your child will be better prepared. They will be home for Thanksgiving, and that is a great time to get some of these documents in place.