The Summer Before College Checklist
Preparing Your Catholic Homeschool Student for Life at College: A To-Do List
Last week Phillip wrote about the summer before senior year (7 Steps to Prepare Your Child for College). This week, I’d like to address the summer before college. You’ve graduated your oldest child and they’re going off to college. What do you do now? This is all new territory!
Transitioning from high school to college is one of the biggest changes in a young person’s life. It is also complicated. The number of details that need to be attended to, from choosing a college right down to the move-in day, can seem overwhelming.
Getting ready for college is not simple, but it needn’t be overly stressful. The summer before your child departs for college is the time to tackle many of the little tasks required for a successful college transition. In this article, we will review ten things you can do the summer before college to help make this time less stressful.
1. Set Up a Way to Transfer Money
There are many types of colleges and many types of programs, but college students needing money is universal! Before your child begins college, ensure you have set up some means for the electronic transfer of funds. Either set your child’s bank account up as a recipient under the “Bill pay” function on your online banking or connect with a third-party app like Venmo, CashApp, or Zelle.
College expenses can be complicated and unpredictable, even if you have everything in order. Your child may suddenly get hit with hidden fees or be asked to make up for unexpected tuition shortfalls and need cash quickly. So it’s helpful to have these means of transfer set up in advance.
2. Life Skills Crash Course
Preparations for college studies can sometimes overshadow another milestone: the first time your child will live independently. You’ll need to ensure your child has had a crash course in basic life skills. This could include things like basic budgeting and handling of money, home organization, how to do laundry, basic maintenance on a vehicle (if they have one), and memorizing important information like their social security number. College is challenging enough on its own; you don’t want your son or daughter to have the additional strain of navigating it without basic life skills.
Note: Homeschool Connections offers a variety of life skills and adulting courses online for Catholic homeschool families.
3. Meet the Roommates
If your child will be living with roommates, encourage them to organize a meet-up with their future roomies—at least via Zoom if an in-person meeting is impossible. Remember, your child is going from a lifetime of living at home in the security of their parents’ house to moving in with complete strangers. That’s a huge transition! The process can be smoothed over considerably if your child gets to know the people he or she will spend so much time with.
Also, make sure to get the roommates’ contact information. If there is ever an emergency and you can’t reach your child, contacting the roommate is the next best thing. And make sure the roommates have your contact info for the same reason.
4. Sign FERPA Papers
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law enacted in 1974 that protects the privacy of student education records. FERPA applies to all public or private elementary, secondary, or post-secondary schools. This means that after your child turns 18, you have no right to see your child’s grades or academic information from their college.
If this isn’t an issue for you, then you don’t need to do anything. However, if accessing your child’s grades is important, you will want to ensure your child signs the appropriate disclosures required under FERPA . This will grant you access to their academic information. The U.S. Department of Education has an online template for making the required disclosures under FERPA.
5. Get a Health Plan in Order and Sign HIPAA Papers
Most health plans today cover dependent children until they are 25-years old. Therefore, your insurance will likely cover your child when he or she leaves for college. Make sure your child has their own health and dental cards. If they need regular prescriptions, have a plan in place for how they will get them filled.
In the rare case that your child will not be covered by your insurance, the school will likely require you to purchase one of their health plans. So, you may want to inquire about that. Also, double-check that your child has all applicable immunizations.
Because of HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act), you no longer have free access to your adult child’s medical records. “If your student seeks medical treatment on or off campus, or if they are injured or fall seriously ill and require hospitalization, you will not automatically be able to consult with medical providers, get information, and have input into their treatment.” (SOURCE) To access your young adult’s medical records, you must have them complete a HIPAA release form for your state and also the school’s state.
6. Research Local Amenities
If your child’s school is in a different city from home, you’ll want to spend some time helping your child become acquainted with the local amenities. Where are the nearest restaurants, the best place to go grocery shopping, the post office, the bank, etc. What sorts of venues for entertainment are there? Also, ensure your child knows where to go for medical care should the need arise.
7. Finalize Registration
Obviously, you wouldn’t intentionally send your son or daughter off to college without deliberately finalizing registration. Still, registration deadlines can be complicated, and it is always possible that you fail to meet them entirely through accident. General education and department programs can have different registration deadlines. Registration for science classes and their labs may need to be done separately. Or, overly-complex online registration systems may leave you thinking you have finalized registration when you actually haven’t. So, double and triple-check that registration has been finalized.
8. Get to the Orientation
All colleges offer orientation for incoming freshmen. You may be tempted to think orientation is a waste of time (and indeed, some parts of it may be). Still, college orientations also provide valuable information about getting around on campus. They introduce students to how the flow of life works on campus, sports, extracurricular activities, where certain departments and offices are located, and who to contact in certain situations. It can be a useful introduction to getting around campus and make your child feel more comfortable.
9. Go Supply Shopping
Get out your credit cards, and head on down to the store! Your child will need many supplies for college, especially if they live on campus. Ask the Office of Student Life for a move-in list so you know what your child will need. Ensure you have everything ready far ahead of the move-in day. You don’t want to scramble at the last minute or find that something you’d planned on getting later is sold out.
Also, ask questions about the logistics of moving: Is your child’s dorm on the 17th floor of a high-rise building? Are there carts or dollies available? How close or far is parking from the dorm room? These logistical details make a big difference in whether your move-in day goes smoothly or is chaotic.
10. Book A Hotel Nearby
This is optional, but I recommend booking a hotel nearby and staying in town for a day or two after move-in. No matter how well-prepared you are, chances are you will forget something, and your child will need a helping hand. It’s common to misread or misunderstand the room specifications; for example, the student dorm website may say, “Rooms equipped with refrigerators,” but then when your child moves in, she finds that her room doesn’t have one. Turns out, “Rooms equipped with refrigerators” has an asterisk beside it with a footnote that says, “*Except dorms in the west tower,” which is, of course, right where your daughter lives.
So you find yourself running a mini-fridge back out to your daughter’s dorm the day after move-in. These kinds of things happen, so it’s a good idea to stay close by, at least for a day after move-in. And book the hotel room well in advance as college town hotels tend to fill up around this time (ditto for graduation!).
We’ve addressed practical tips in this article and there is more that we could talk about. One of those things is making sure that your child will be spiritually fed. If they’re not attending a Newman Catholic College, you may need to help them find a local Catholic parish, a Newman Center, and/or a Catholic campus ministry. Perhaps in our next article we’ll address how to keep your faith at college.
In the meantime, what other ideas do you have for prepping your homeschooler for college? I invite you to join us in our Catholic Homeschool Connections Community and start a conversation.