Ways to make the most of summer before they head to college.
Gather dorm supplies over time.
If they’ll be moving into a dorm or apartment, you could be looking at a significant expense for stocking it. Come up with a list of necessary items and nice-to-haves, and check it against the school’s rules for what’s allowed in the dorm. If they’ll have a roommate, and once they find out who, ask early on how they’d prefer to handle bigger items like the mini-fridge and microwave. See if they’re willing to bring one if you’ll provide the other – it’s better than ending up with two mini-fridges.
Then, start checking things off the list early. See what’s available around the house, from friends and family, at thrift stores or on sale online. If you wait until the last minute to shop, you’ll be more likely to pay full price for everything. Take care of big, necessary items first. It’s also okay if they don’t have everything on the list on their first day.
Decide whether they need a summer job.
Depending on your financial situation, your child may need to work this summer to help pay for school or build savings so they’ll have spending money. Figure out early on if they should work this summer. For instance, they could get a seasonal part-time position, take odd jobs like babysitting or lawn mowing or teach lessons to local kids.
If you haven’t filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), be sure to do so as soon as possible. Your family could qualify for grants, work-study programs or federal loans. Then, figure out how you’ll make up the difference, and if you’ll need to apply for any private loans.
For more information about applying for financial aid, read “What to know about applying for financial aid.” You can also read more about paying for college by visiting “Paying for college soon? It’s time to make a game plan.”
Plan a vacation.
It doesn’t have to be big or expensive – just as long as you can spend time together after the stress of admissions and before the school year starts. You could take a road trip to a city they’ve never been to, go on a beach vacation or even plan a staycation packed with fun, local activities and their favorite hometown places.
Secure your dates early on, especially if your child is working or traveling this summer, and if you need to request any days off work. Look for deals on flights and hotels, as well as discounts online for activities to do on your trip.
Make sure their medical needs are covered.
If they have any prescriptions, transfer them to a pharmacy near campus. If they have any allergies, work with the school’s housing office and cafeteria to come up with a management plan. Then, consider scheduling a doctor and dentist appointment for them before the end of the summer, and make note of the contact information for the health clinic on campus and nearest hospital. Finally, if they have a phone with a way to store medical and contact information for emergencies, ask them to update it.
In case of an emergency while they’re away, get a durable power of attorney for healthcare and healthcare directive on file before they leave for school. This will ensure you can access information about your child if they are admitted to the hospital. You can download the form from your state’s bar association online and complete it on your own. Place signed copies with your primary health care provider, with your important documents at home and in the glove compartment of your child’s car if your child has one on campus.
Make travel arrangements for orientation day.
Whether their school is in another state or just down the road, you’ll need to figure out how they’ll get to freshman orientation, class and home for visits. You might be planning to pack up the family van and help them move. In that case, make sure everything fits in the car; if it doesn’t, reserve a rental truck or trailer ahead of time. Consider sending them with only the necessities at first. Then, they can see what else they need, and you can bring up another load on a later weekend (which gives you a perfect excuse to visit).
Do they need a car for school? Many campuses are walkable – and parking may be expensive – so they may not. You can also see if there is a train or bus available for trips home.
If they’ll need to fly, find a big suitcase and book flights sooner rather than later. Look for deals and see if you have airline miles you can use. Figure out what’s crucial for them to bring and maybe plan to ship bulky items like towels and a comforter. Identify supplies they can buy once they get to school.
Finally, if you’ll be traveling with them, think about whether you’ll stay overnight and need accommodations. You may want to sleep on their dorm room floor the first night, but it’s probably better to book a hotel room.
Set up a bank account for them.
While expenses like housing and meals may be covered, they may need to cover additional expenses that pop up. These could include anything from textbooks to late-night pizza or a present for their roommate’s birthday. Figure out how they’ll pay for things, how you’ll get money to them should the need arise and what costs they’ll be responsible for.
There are many options for setting up your college student to be financially secure. A prepaid card can be a good option if you want to provide them with a set amount each month, and there are debit and credit cards specifically tailored to students. Many banks allow you to send money to your college student digitally as well.
Check to see what services your bank provides for students, and if they have a branch near your child’s campus or online banking options. If not, look for a bank local to the city they’ll be in; some campuses even have a bank branch on campus. Make sure they have security features like text alerts – and be sure to set them up once they start their account.
It seems like just yesterday your child was leaving for summer camp for the first time, and now they’re headed off to college, making this possibly the most precious summer yet. Remember to enjoy your time together, even while getting them ready for their big step into adulthood. Hopefully this checklist helps! If you have questions about student banking or college financing, contact a personal banker at a branch near you.