Important Papers Every College Student Should Have

When your student turns 18, they start gaining the rights to control access to all their private information, from grades to medical records.

This means that even parents won’t have access to these items without filling out the proper paperwork.

The most extreme result of this reality is that you might not be able to make medical decisions for your own child if they were to get into an accident that landed them in the hospital, even if they are covered by your health insurance plan.

Before an emergency happens, here are the main documents your child needs to have with them before heading off to college:

HIPAA Release Forms

In some ways, the HIPAA release form is the most important form your student should complete.

It’s the one where they choose what medical information is released to you by doctors.

Doctors seeing your teen can’t talk to you without it.

You will want to make sure that any doctors your daughter or son sees regularly has one on file. Each state requires their own, so they’ll need one for the state they live in and another for the state you live in (if they’re attending an out-of-state school).

The HIPAA release is important because, for the past 18 years, your student wasn’t in charge of their medical care until now.

As parents, you may have had private conversations with doctors, counselors, insurance companies, etc. about your student, with and/or without them being present.

Thus, they may not know all the details of medical treatments they’ve had.

Also, you may have to handle any medical claim disputes with your insurance company that still covers them.

Note: All of these forms and documents should be backed up with photocopies on your smartphone and theirs.

Documents can easily become illegible if there’s a liquid spill. It also allows you to send the form quickly in a text or email if the doctor or your student can’t find their form.

Health Insurance Card

In case your student needs medical care, they should carry their medical insurance card with them. Make sure the card is not expired and that the insurance is accepted locally where your student attends school.

Compare prices for prescriptions that your son or daughter uses regularly. Try the campus health center, a local pharmacy, and/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 allergies your student has to certain medicine and any medical conditions they might have.

If your son or daughter has a medical condition that needs regular treatment or medication, make sure you have a plan for those services before they leave for school.

Also be sure to complete any medical forms required by the school before the start of the school year. This may include any required physicals or vaccination records.


Your student will need some sort of photo ID beyond their student ID.

If they don’t have a driver’s license, a passport is a good all-purpose ID.

It’s also good to have if they want to go on a trip beyond the United States.

If they don’t already have a passport, they can apply for one at any time.

They will need to provide their birth certificate and other identification that can even include their school yearbook.

For more information about what identification you need to apply for a first-time passport, click here.

Social Security Card

It’s one of those documents we rarely use, but it’s important when your student gets a job.

Make sure they have their card before they leave for the school year or have ordered a new one through the Social Security Administration website. Be sure that your student has a safe place to keep their card to prevent losing it while they are at school.

Medical Proxy, Health Care Proxy or Advance Healthcare Directive

A medical proxy form, or any of the other two names it is known by, is completely different from a HIPAA release form.

The HIPAA release form is just about you being able to communicate with the student’s doctors and medical professionals.

A medical proxy allows you to act on their behalf in the way you did when they were still in your home.

This is a very important form if for any reason your son or daughter is in a position where he or she can’t speak for themselves.

Since this form is a bit more serious than the HIPAA form, it can require two witnesses who confirm the student is of sound mind when deciding to give you the power to make medical decisions on their behalf.

You should also fill out one form in the city where your student goes to school and have an extra copy at home.

Since the form has an alternate proxy, the second parent or a close relative can serve as a stand-in if you are not available to make decisions.

FERPA Waiver for College Students

Up until this point in time, it’s been pretty effortless for you as a parent to be as involved as possible in your child’s education, including having access to all of his or her school records.

According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), all that changes once your child turns 18 (or enters college).

Once that happens, all rights related to education are transferred to the student, including the information about their GPA, academic transcript, academic warning, academic probation or discipline record.

This means you cannot call a professor or a department head with inquiries and explanations about your child’s grades, attendance record or class performance, in general.

FERPA protects college students’ education records so they remain confidential between the college and student. It also protects a student’s privacy when it comes to financial records.

Documents created and maintained by the financial aid office are considered to be education records and may not be disclosed without the student’s consent.

This includes (minimally): eligibility and disbursement of federal student aid funds, financial aid applications, federal work-study payroll records, your student’s account balance, and financial aid history information.

All colleges and universities have FERPA release authorizations that when signed by the student, allow the school to disclose specific information regarding student financial aid records.

Remember that your access to these records is now at your student’s discretion, and they are not required to give you that access. Not every school may inform your student outright about FERPA and the forms that need to be completed to give you access to their account information.

So, even if you are paying the bills, FERPA rules.

Once your student is off to college, you will want to be comfortable knowing that they have attained a level of maturity which will allow them to control many aspects of their lives in a responsible manner.

Some of this control will be out of your hands, and some will be negotiable.

It is important to discuss all these issues with them before they leave for school, so that if and when emergencies occur, everyone will be prepared, and there will be no surprises.


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