It’s hard to believe, but in a few short months your child will be in college. You may think that all the hard work is behind you, now that his/her college applications are complete and financial aid forms have been sent, but don’t get too comfortable. While your child is waiting to find out where he/she will be attending college this fall, you still have plenty of tasks on your college to-do list. Along with trying to figure out how you are going to pay for your child’s education and all those ‘back-to-school’ items he/she will need, you’ll also need to cover some other items of importance before he/she leaves the nest. To avoid any delays in your child’s college journey, be sure to tackle these items before your child graduates this spring.
Most college students are required to have certain immunizations before they are allowed to live on campus or take classes. Typical vaccines include hepatitis B, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), varicella (chicken pox) and tetanus (Tdap). Each state has different requirements, so be sure to check with the college’s health office to see which vaccines your child will need. Some vaccines are given in a series, such as hepatitis B, which takes up to six months to complete, so your child will need to see a doctor soon in order to have the required doses (if needed) prior to enrolling this fall. Talk to your child’s doctor about other suggested vaccines, such as meningitis, influenza, human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis A. The meningitis vaccine is particularly important since your child will be in close contact with other students, which puts him/her at a higher risk for contracting the disease. Many colleges now require students to have the vaccine and most are required by state law to inform parents and students about the warning signs and risks of meningitis.
If your child has a chronic health condition, you may also want to get copies of his/her health records from the physician. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself and give one to your child to take with him/her to college.
With everything going on, it is easy to forget about something as simple as a prescription. Make sure your child has at least a 30-day supply when he/she leaves this fall, as well as copies of the prescription and the number to his/her physician. You may also want to consider transferring the prescription to the campus pharmacy or another location closer to the college. Your child should know how to order a refill, as well as what to do when it is time to renew his/her prescription.
Be sure to make copies of your health insurance cards, as well as copying down information on vision and dental plans. Your child should know where to locate important information, such as the member identification or plan code and the insurance’s customer service number. Go over your plan’s coverage, including co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses for prescriptions and exams, as well. Don’t forget to check your car insurance coverage, too; it’s important to give your child updated insurance cards and explain what to do in case of an accident. If you child won’t be driving during his/her first year on campus, you may be able to reduce your coverage and save some money, so check with your insurance agent to determine how much coverage your family will need.
Now is a good time to have ‘the talk.’ It’s important to discuss potential situations your child may face at college, including sexual encounters and underage drinking. If you find it too difficult to talk to your child about sex, ask your physician to approach the subject, making sure your child understands the risks and what precautions to take before engaging in any risky behavior. Give your child information on the dangers of binge drinking and hazing rituals, too. Be sure to cover campus safety, as well. It’s a good idea to locate important numbers, such as the campus police, on the college’s website and give them to your child. Hopefully, he/she will never need them, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
You may also want to add a first-aid kit to your college shopping list; you would be surprised at how many times your child may need a bandage or some Neosporin while in college. Make sure it includes a thermometer, too, just in case a bout of the flu sweeps through the dorms. Over the next few months, while your child is busy filling out scholarship applications and housing forms, start working on these tasks and you’ll find that you are fully prepared this fall. Your child may not appreciate the trip to the doctor’s office, or the injections, but having to postpone his/her enrollment would be worse; with a little planning, you’ll both be ready to go by August.