Seven ways parents can help college students prepare for life away from home

After high school graduation, students will face many new experiences beyond academics and social situations. Iowa Student Loan (ISL) Education Lending knows that preparation for the next step helps students increase their chances of graduation, finding a job and successfully repaying any student loans. ISL offers the following tips for parents on how to help prepare their students, and themselves, for life away at college:

1. Plan for medical emergencies. Parents may not have access to health information or be able to make medical decisions for incapacitated students who are 18 or older, no matter who carries the insurance and pays the bills. Parents may want to have their student properly complete, sign and have notarized official medical power of attorney and medical information release forms that can easily be accessed in case of emergency. In addition, students should understand when to self-treat, visit a clinic or specialist, or go to the emergency room.

2. Take care of other health needs. Students may need vaccinations or boosters, as well as a physical, dental cleaning or vision check, before college or training. Encourage students to schedule appointments and complete the appropriate paperwork, with parental help as needed, so these tasks are familiar later. Be sure students know how to access their health care information. If students will be leaving home, work together to create a basic medical kit with health items normally kept at home.

3. Get funding in order. Students should have a good grasp of the cost of training or education needed after high school. Work with students to compare the cost of the most appropriate options for the desired career goals, such as community college or a four-year institution. With this cost in mind, students should explore ways to cover funding gaps. If students will rely on loans, be sure both students and parents understand the limits and advantages of federal student loans compared to private student loans. Be aware that most traditional college students are not able to take out private student loans without a cosigner.

4. Set up a financial system. Discuss how students will obtain money, such as from a job or from parents, and access it for transactions. If parents are helping their student financially, ensure they can easily transfer money between accounts. Parents may also want to consider adding their student to a credit card. Make sure students understand how daily expenses add up and how to reduce costs where possible. Depending on circumstances, a budget or spending app may be helpful.

5. Plan for transportation needs. If a student will use a vehicle, help him or her set up maintenance and repair appointments, and encourage participation in any discussions of related expenses. If a student will frequently travel, you might consider a roadside assistance plan. Parents should also advise their car insurance provider if their student will have the vehicle away from home on a long-term basis. Make sure students know what to do in case of an accident, such as whom to call and what to say to another party. If a student will use other forms of transportation, demonstrate how to make appropriate arrangements.

6. Secure personal information and belongings. Will the student need to take a passport, Social Security card or birth certificate? Discuss how important it is to keep these documents secure. If a students relies on a phone contact list for important numbers, suggest a back-up in case the phone is broken, lost or stolen. If a student will have valuables in a new living space, parents should consider dorm or renters insurance and check their homeowners policy for coverage.

7. Practice daily life skills. Encourage students to take appropriate responsibility for meals, laundry, cleaning, shopping and other everyday tasks. If a student is not used to sharing bedroom and bathroom space, discuss how behaviors may need to change in communal spaces. If a student will be responsible for any home maintenance in a future home, consider a basic toolkit and have the student practice minor maintenance routines.

For other information as parents help prepare their student for life away from home, visit ISL Education Lending’s website at