Help students prepare for life away from home

by Christine Hensley, Iowa Student Loan Liquidity Corporation Board Chair

After high school graduation, your student will face many new experiences beyond academics and social situations. At Iowa Student Loan (ISL) Education Lending, we know that preparation for the next step helps students increase their chances of graduation, finding a job and successfully repaying any student loans.

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. You may want to have your student properly complete, sign and have notarized official medical power of attorney and medical information release forms that you can easily access in case of emergency. In addition, your child should understand when to self-treat, visit a clinic or specialist, or go to the emergency room.

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

3. Get funding in order. Your student should have a good grasp of the cost of training or education needed after high school. Work with your student 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, your student should explore ways to cover funding gaps. If your student will rely on loans, be sure you both 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 your student will obtain money, such as from a job or from you, and access it for transactions. If you are helping your student financially, ensure you can easily transfer money between accounts. You may also want to consider adding your student to a credit card. Make sure your student understands 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 your 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 your student will frequently travel, you might consider a roadside assistance plan. You should also advise your car insurance provider if your student will have the vehicle away from home on a long-term basis. Make sure your student knows what to do in case of an accident, such as whom to call and what to say to another party. If your student will use other forms of transportation, demonstrate how to make appropriate arrangements.

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

7. Practice daily life skills. Encourage your student to take appropriate responsibility for meals, laundry, cleaning, shopping and other everyday tasks. If your student is not used to sharing bedroom and bathroom space, discuss how behaviors may need to change in communal spaces.

If your student will be responsible for any home maintenance in a future home, consider a basic toolkit and have your student practice minor maintenance routines.

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