Preparing for college: The nitty gritty

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Your child has been accepted to college. You and your college-bound student are now largely on your own to navigate the many roads of leaving home, preparing for the dorm and mastering forms and fees. There is a lot to do before you wave goodbye at the airport or dorm.

Thankfully, Marie Carr-one mom who kept careful track of everything she learned the hard way, as her three daughters went off to college-has assembled lots of important information and smart tips in Prepared Parent's Operational Manual: Sending Your Child to College, a helpful handbook that all parents of a college-bound student will want to have-both for the getting ready phase and for quick reference later.

"Five years and four colleges later, I have kept track of everything that I learned and the five most important tips I tell parents are:

1. Be organized and on the lookout for all forms of communication. Your son or daughter will be treated by the college or university as an adult and all communications including the tuition bill will come to them in the mail and to their school email. Letters cannot go unopened or emails un-responded to. The tuition bill that must be paid you may never see.

2. A health care proxy and/or power of attorney must be filled in. It also must be filed with the appropriate college office before any potential medical emergency, not after. The HIPPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) enacted in 1996 requires that all medical information and records be strictly confidential. As a college parent, this means two things: first, you will not be able to voice your opinion to any clinician about your child's medical care and second, you will not have access to their medical records, x-rays, etc.

3. Have a discussion about finances, budget and identity theft. Each year more and more students leave college with a degree and thousands of dollars of debt on credit cards with high interest rates.

4. Get organized. Have readily available your student's ID number, mailing address (which is different from their dorm address), address where you can overnight something (which may be different from the mailing address), names and cell phone numbers of the roommates, resident advisor, nearest hospital, etc. Most students will feel that this is invading their privacy-but after the various college campus tragedies-it is really insurance for peace of mind and help in case of a true emergency. They'll thank you for it.

5. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your student. Alcohol abuse and depression are very real. As a parent, you need to recognize the signs. Learn how to text message-the easiest and most popular means of communication. Plan to send snail mail and packages of goodies.

So, before it is time to start the marathon shopping spree and packing, the preparations for this new phase of parenting must begin. With careful organization and advance planning, this new adventure will be a delight rather than a nightmare.