Must Dos Before Going to College

As I am about to send my second child to college, I would like to share with my friends some helpful tips I’ve learned along the way with my first. I will come back to this page, and keep updating. I’ve included some links, please comment and share your tips.

 Medical Related Matters:
  • Doctors: As they turn 18, they need to find a new adult or family doctor, OBGYN, etc. schedule those well check appointments now so that you have a doctor you can call to get prescriptions or any other problem that their school health clinic won’t cover.
  • Health Forms: Download all health forms from your college. There are usually more than one, the general health form and the vaccination report form. (please note that just the vaccination report often is not enough, it needs to be re-written into the school’s official vaccination report). Make sure you have received all required vaccines. Scan and keep a copy of all these documents on a file folder in your computer titled “College-health forms”. Trust me they will call you and say that they need their vaccine report for many organizations or going to their health service appointment, and they usually need it “NOW”. Print a copy for them to take and keep in a secure place.
  • Dental: Schedule your dental checkups to coincide with their summer and winter vacations. If you have to get wisdom teeth extracted, do it now. There is nothing worse than having to find a local oral surgeon last minute and far from home. Usually, those painful infections come in the worse possible timing.
  • Medications: Create a game plan for recurrent medications, get prescriptions transferred to their local pharmacy. If they are taking ADHD/Anxiety medication, you will need a local doctor, or specialist approval at their school health services before you can get a refill. Mailing medications is not allowed, and a doctor can’t prescribe certain medications from a different state. All records should be sent to the school’s disability office ahead of time. It is important that these controlled medications should be stored in a safe in a room. See below for safe ideas.
  • Create a health kit for them: with all the things they usually rely on you to dispense: bandaids, Tylenol, ibuprofen, triple antibiotic, hydrocortisone cream, allergy pills, nasal sprays, etc.

Packing/Shipping:

  • Packing: Don’t leave packing for the last minute. Right now, it seems the summer is long. But they have a lot of stuff. It’s a good time to clean up and see what they can take with them and what you would need to purchase. Then cut that list in half. You won’t need as many things nor would they fit in their tiny rooms. Also make sure they ok with their moms and siblings what they are taking. I know of many sibling spats when they discover they took their favorite sandals, blow dryer and tops.
  • Luggage/Storage:When packing think about where you are going to store the suitcase/luggage you will be traveling back and forth. There is limited space in the room, so your weekend bag must fit inside your suitcase under your bed, and that is the place where you need to store your “sweaters” or your second set of sheets/towels. I repeat, think about the size of that suitcase, it won’t fit!
  • Mailbox: Find out what is the package or mail situations for their schools. Many places you can accept a package but not regular postal mail. Some have amazon boxes others you need to rent a special PObox. I know at some colleges you can get packages in a receiving center, but it is inconvenient, and you can’t receive regular mail, only packages. You need to rent at the post office a $50/year PObox to receive all other mail, including absentee ballots. This is essential because it’s best to buy things online for all your dorm needs and buy them to get them when you are there to move in. I’ll put these list in a separate section.
  • REGISTER TO VOTE:  Make sure you are registered to vote and make sure you have a valid mailing address to receive your absentee ballot. For Texas you can obtain a voter registration application here. Parents, please assist your young voters in registering either in their local state or in their college state. Also assist them with postage and deadlines for absentee voting. Many states, like Texas you can’t register via vote.org.
Finance/Proxies
  • Bank account: If they don’t have their bank account setup do so now. Usually they won’t be charged fees if they are affiliated with your account. Make sure they get an ATM/ Debit card and that they connect their own venmo to that. This is the best way for them to learn how to budget their “discretionary money”. They will think twice before paying for items when it comes out of their own account. The family credit card (emergency card) can be kept in the safe and only used for essentials, and once that can be used for 529 approved purchases.
  • 529 accounts: Keep your record (spread sheet or email subfolder ) for all college expenses that qualify for a 529 expense. It is important to remember that you can only get reimbursed for expenses incurred on the same year you remove the money. Read here for all 529 qualified expenses. 
  • Personal Property Insurance: I Didn’t even know this existed until I needed it. Check this link and your school website but this is why you would need it.  Say your student checks out from the material labs an electronic item and it gets, lost, stolen, or breaks. You have to pay for replacing it. It could be a digital camera, a VR head set, a computer… You can imagine the cost. Also, I believe this can cover your personal computer and peripherals. Check with your home insurance, but I think you might need a separate one like the one above. Read closely and choose the plan that works for you.  
  • Proxies: This topic is a bit more sensitive than most and it all really depends on your own family’s decision. Once they turn 18, they are adults and they will need to sign proxies to give you access to their information. This include medical, financial, academics, etc.  I have read many articles of parents that did not have one in place with their child and were completely unaware of their son/daughter’s health and mental wellbeing.  I also know of many cases that a school administrator is unable to contact the parent’s if they are struggling unless they have that proxy.  Even more, I know of parent’s who had no access to their grades, even if they were paying for their school, and did not realize they were in academic suspension, etc.  Set an agreement about certain password sharing, and or proxies that best fit your family’s needs.
  • HIPPA Release Form: It is so important for your child to sign a medical power of attorney and/ or a privacy release form, once they turn 18. Otherwise, if for some unfortunate reason your child is sent to the hospital and is unable to give consent, Doctors will not be able to talk to you nor you will be able to make decisions on their medical conditions. Read this article about why this is important. Here is another article summarizing the legal documents you need. Here is a sample template for an advance directive or here for more state specific forms.
  • Important Documents: Scan and keep a copy of your student’s driver license, health insurance card, passports, credit cards, etc. One at home and another on their safety box, in case they lose them or it gets stolen.
  • Label Everything: I know it’s not “camp”, but trust me, when you leave your earphones, coat, water bottle or your iPad in the library you will wish you had a little sticker with your email and phone number. Most people return items if they know to whom to return them. Print a bunch of labels and use them!

Room Essentials– I will update this list as I think of more.

  •  I suggest you start a “wish list” on amazon or any other site of choice where you can order these things on a need basis. The student can create a student amazon prime account free for 6 months and 50% off after that with their new student email. (I am not being paid for amazon). Most things your student thinks they’ll need they don’t, but others you can always order at amazon. These are some of the things we ended up buying.
  • Ikea Duffel Storage Bags: These bags are a must to pack everything you need to take, and to store all their items. They collapse and they are hardy, especially for moving days and storing over the summer. They are so popular that they even sell it at amazon and Walmart. So next time you are near an Ikea get them, because they are very popular. You will thank me later.
  • Small Safe: At first, I thought this wasn’t essential, but then I realized that it’s important to get a small safe for their room, where they can store jewelry, prescription meds, family credit cards, and any other important documents that contain private info. I got this one because it could fit an ipad/laptop (though I don’t think he has ever stored it there, he now feels the one we got is too big.   But this is another popular one, especially for your daughter:
  • Mattress topper and mattress protector
  • Multi-Plug, extention cord, UL approved surge protector. There are not enough electrical outlets for all their electronics, and often they are in a wall you cannot reach.
  • Air Purifier / with or without fan: Dorm rooms may be dusty and musky, we didn’t get this until the second year, and it made a great difference in reducing upper respiratory issues. This one is compact and works pretty well. 
  • Circadian lamp: If they are going to a place that is not as sunny, and you are used to the sun, and are prone to seasonal affective disorder, or have a really bad sleep/wake schedule, these lamps really help. This one is compact, the size of an ipad, there are others that double as circadian lamp and desk lamps.
  • Shower Caddy: I like this foldable and mesh caddy
  • Food containers: if your student is always hungry, they can pack at their dining hall (sneakily) some food, so that they can reheat later in their dorms.
  • Other Items: Obviously XL twin sheet sets, pillow, towels, comforter.  He laundry detergent, dryer sheets, hangers, laundry bag, lint remover, safety pins, toiletries. I bought a small inexpensive steamer because irons tend to not be allowed in dorms.

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