College Packing List: Bring Essential Documents

Do you have a child going off to college this Fall?

We do! It is an exciting time for families, but not without some anxiety about the significant changes in your households. Our son, Tyler, is going to college in a few weeks, and we’re busy helping him get his packing done for the dorm. We’re also thinking about ways to ensure he will be safe and have a happy, productive time at school. 

College Packing List Should Have Essential Documents

By now, you and your college-bound student have likely seen the college dorm room shopping list they received from orientation or shared on social media. They include many of the items we suggested in our article on graduation gifts and include blankets, towels, shower shoes, and extra large twin sheets.

Their college packing list is incomplete without bringing essential documents to college as a precautionary measure. Things happen to our kids that we can’t control or prevent from happening to them. Over 250,000 Americans between 18 and 25 end up hospitalized yearly with non-lethal injuries.

When our kids turn 18, we celebrate their entrance into adulthood. They still are our children even as they gain greater independence and rights to control or access private information, notably grades or medical records.

The medical providers may favor your child’s privacy rights over you. They won’t disclose medical information to allow you to make medical decisions for your loved ones, even if you are responsible for their medical bills.

You’ll have some peace of mind when they go to college by filling out the proper paperwork that will provide you access to your child’s records with their permission.  Access to vital information is a matter of being safe, not sorry. Their college packing list should contain essential documents.

Discussing and anticipating potential health emergencies as a family is a good idea. We want our students to know we trust them implicitly, but we also want to be there during emergencies. 

Please use this post for informational purposes only, and always contact your attorney for any legal ramifications or questions you may have.

Here Are Essential  Documents Your Child Needs to Bring To College:

HIPAA Authorization 

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that requires the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

The HIPAA release form is essential for your child to complete so you may participate in conversations and decisions concerning your child’s health. Without it, doctors or medical professionals can’t comfortably talk to you.

Be aware that you may need to specify the health care provider authorized to share information about your student’s treatment. You may need one for the campus health center and the nearest hospital to the college or university. It is best to check the individual school’s health services webpage, or you can download this HIPAA form for free.

Suppose your child does not want to disclose certain medical information. In that case, they can limit disclosing specific health-related issues such as mental health, sex, or alcohol/drugs for personal reasons. However, the fewer the limitations, the more flexibility and information in emergencies.

FERPA Waivers

Throughout your child’s education,  it’s been easy as a parent to stay involved and knowledgeable about your child’s school performance, meeting with their teachers or guidance counselor. 

According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), all that changes once your child turns 18 and gains privacy rights over their educational and medical records unless your child signs a FERPA “Student Information Release Form” or waiver.  

FERPA waivers are more than looking at your student’s grades. The waivers are available through individual college or university registrar’s offices, where you can check their respective policies. Health records maintained by the college health centers are usually, but not always, covered by FERPA regulations rather than HIPAA regulations. 

Educational records will include your student’s GPA, academic transcript, academic warning, academic probation, or discipline record. It also protects a student’s privacy regarding financial records, account balances,  and financial aid history information.

Discussing all these issues with them before they leave for school is essential so there will be no surprises if and when emergencies occur. It will reduce the angst you may be feeling.

Medical Power of Attorney (POA)

A medical power of attorney or health care proxy is an essential tool when someone becomes incapacitated and can no longer make medical decisions for themselves.  It grants another person as an agent when they become effective and its duration. Most states accept all POAs, but rules and requirements may differ from state to state.

Suppose your child becomes incapacitated and is unable to make decisions. In that case, medical power of attorney would allow a parent to act as the agent to make health care decisions. The parent would be responsible for ensuring doctors and other medical professionals provide necessary and appropriate care.

This POA differs from a HIPAA release form that allows you to speak to the doctors, and the POA is in place for your child is unable to speak for themselves. Some POAs may include a HIPAA waiver. It is always a good idea to talk to your attorney whenever there may be legal ramifications. 

General Durable Power of Attorney

The durable POA allows your child, as a college student, to give parents the authority to make legal and financial decisions. It enables parents to help manage bank accounts, access grades, pay bills, file taxes, apply for government benefits, or make more significant decisions if they cannot do so. These vary by state, so check the requirements and forms.  

This POA is particularly handy when your child is abroad, and you must sign a lease on their behalf, wire money from their account, or contact an embassy.  

Health Insurance Card

Your college student should carry their health insurance card with them at school. Make sure the card has not expired, and the insurance is accepted locally where your student attends school.

You’ll want to compare prescription prices for the medication your son or daughter regularly uses. Try the campus health center, a local pharmacy, or mail-order subscription service.

Medical Records 

It’s a good idea for you (if your student grants permission), your student, and the campus medical center to have your student’s medical records on hand. That way, they’ll know what medical conditions or allergies your student might have and have a plan before leaving for school.

Also, complete any medical forms the school requires before the start of the school year, including any required physicals or vaccination records, and keep them up-to-date.

 Driver’s License or Passport

Your student will need some sort of photo ID beyond their student ID. They may need to provide their birth certificate and other identification. A driver’s license is an excellent ID if they have one or a passport, especially if they plan to go abroad.

Social Security Card 

A social security card is essential, especially when your student gets a job. They should have their card before they leave for the school year. They need to take special care of the card at school and leave a copy at home.

Final Thoughts

It can be overwhelming whether you are going to college or your child is. There is college dorm shopping, things to send, and necessary forms. Recognize this is an exciting time in your household and your child’s life. We want them to trust us to support their goals.

Best Wishes!!

Related Posts:

48 of The Best Graduation Gifts

14 Best Websites To Find Free Textbooks Online 

51 Ways To Save Money In College


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