Articles College

The Parents’ Guide: Getting Ready for College

By Alicia Wanek

When it comes to getting kids off to college, the parents and students are usually thinking about very different ways to prepare.  Your students are likely thinking about decorating their dorm rooms, getting a good schedule, sorority or fraternity rush, and finding the best places to eat or hang out on campus.  You, on the other hand, are likely much more worried about practical matters such as whether they are ready to take care of themselves without you.  There are some things you can do as you prepare for this next big step in both of your lives.

Be prepared legally

Now that your child is an adult, without the proper legal documents in place, you’ll have very little authority to act on their behalf for medical decisions or financial matters without the proper powers of attorney.  See article by legal expert Colin Smith on page 53 to examine what other considerations you should make with your attorney.

Examine your insurance policies

Thankfully your child can be covered under your health insurance policy until the age of 26 under current health care laws. Now that your child is living on their own, they will be responsible for a lot of their own medical care.  Make sure they understand how the policy works and what they will have to pay out of pocket when they visit the doctor.  Most important, ensure your policy covers the student’s new geographic area.  See article page 54 for additional health care considerations.

You may also want to consider purchasing a life insurance plan for your child if you haven’t already.  Local independent insurance agent Bobby Davidson reminds us that purchasing a plan for them early insures that they have access to life insurance if, God forbid, they were to get an illness that would make them uninsurable later.

Determine budgets with your student

You’ll need to set up a joint checking account for your teens that they can access at school, and ensure you have online banking.  Chuck Cowell, Dallas Market Chairman of Guaranty Bank & Trust, suggests you start to identify any problem areas, monitor patterns, and catch warning signs early.  For example, if you notice a lot of ATM cash withdrawals, you probably need to have a talk with your kids about what that cash is being used for. They will inevitably make poor financial decisions along the way, but Chuck says, “… when the money is gone… it’s gone.” Missing a concert/party/trip due to their inability to properly manage “their” budget is a powerful learning tool for future life situations.  Financial literacy is an important skill you can help them build over the next four years.

Spend this summer making sure your child knows basic life skills

You may think you don’t pamper your kids too much, but are they really prepared to handle day-to-day life on their own?  Ensure your kids can plan a shopping list and actually go find the things they need; sort and wash their own clothes; cook something healthy; fill up their car, know when and where to get an oil change, and use roadside assistance; be able to make calls on their own, whether it’s to the credit card company, the doctor, or the help desk; and most importantly, that they can wake up to an alarm without you.  You may have been doing more of these things for them while they’ve been at home than you’ve realized.

Talk about safety

In many ways, technology today makes campuses a lot safer than when we were in college.  A text can go out in seconds to all students warning them about any threat, from a tornado to an active shooter situation.  Teens, however, often have a sense of invincibility, and it’s important for parents to discuss the real dangers in an environment where there are a lot of young students.  At Richland College in Dallas, students can download the college’s mobile app, and just click the “Call Police” icon if they see something suspicious or need help.  Campus police on almost every campus will escort students to their cars if they are alone, hopefully because they’ve been at the library studying until the wee hours.

Going to college will be a transition for both of you, the student and the parent.  It’s filled with conflicting emotions – pride and sadness, excitement and concern, anticipation and anxiety.  Doing as much as you can to prepare for the big day ahead of time may eliminate the stress that could keep it from being the happy memory it should be.

Sources: Colin Smith, attorney, Colin Smith Law, Colin@colinsmithlaw.com, 972.773.9095  

Bobby Davidson, Davidson Insurance Services, 972.980.4884

Chuck Cowell, Dallas Market Chairman, Guaranty Bank & Trust, ccowell@gnty.com

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