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The Transition to College: Five Tips for Parents

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Updated on Apr 30, 2010

A lot happens between being accepted to college and the first day of class. Now is the perfect time for parents to prepare, get organized and plan ahead. Below are 5 tips for parents with college bound students.

How to pay a tuition bill you might never see. By now you should have already received and paid the college’s first semester tuition bill. Some colleges and universities are still mailing the bill to students at their home address, but most are now electronically posting bills to the student’s college account. If you haven’t seen the bill, your child will need to access the bill through their electronic college student account, print a copy and give it to you for payment if you are helping with this cost. Students can also grant parents access to this account. It’s very important to note that the “date due” is not considered the postmark of the payment but rather the date the monies have been processed through the college financial system. This may take several days with cash payments sometimes taking 2 days.

You don’t need to pay for health insurance twice. Read the itemized college tuition bill carefully before paying it. Often there is a health insurance charge that can be opted out of. Contact your health insurance company now to determine if your child will be covered while away at college. If so, ask for a separate insurance card in the child’s name or a letter stating that you have coverage. You’ll need this documentation to opt out of any insurance coverage fees that some colleges automatically assess on the tuition bill.

Create a health care proxy. This document can designate you as the health care agent for your college bound student. The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requires all adult (or anyone over 18) 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 should they get sick or become hospitalized while out of town. Without a copy of this form, you will also not have access to their x-rays or other medical records that your child might ask you to procure for them. Your child will need to fill out this form and file it with the appropriate college office and you will need to have an additional copy at home that you can fax to doctors and hospitals.

Create a budget with your student. Now is the perfect time to discuss money management with your college bound child and to understand how your child’s college cash account will work. Many colleges and universities now allow students to use their student ID cards as “money cards.” As parents you can load an account with a preset amount of money. The card is used like a debit card with washing machines, book stores, convenience stores and even select coffee shops allowing the student to “swipe the card” through their register systems with the cost deducted from the existing account balance. At many colleges and universities, when the money draws down to a $0.00 balance, the card becomes a “credit card” allowing the student to keep charging – sometimes up to $1,200 dollars. Students need to monitor their spending and especially this account and be aware of this provision.

Have your child communicate with her new roommate Dorm rooms are small and there is never enough room for everything that is brought in that first day. Have your student and the new roommate communicate and decide ahead of time what items they can share rather than duplicate and possibly not purchase at all. Examples of such items are refrigerators, microwaves, fans and TV. Also remember that computers can serve as DVD players , cell phones are wonderful alarm clocks and most colleges have computer labs scattered on campus with printers where you child can use their “print allowance.”

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