3 Conversations Parents May Not Think To Have -- But Need To Have--With Their College-Bound Teen


It is best for parents and students to educate themselves about these issues and to have open and honest conversations BEFORE the students leave.

1. Disclosures
In most states, once students turn 18, parents no longer have access to their teens' information due to privacy laws.
As a result of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) laws, parents cannot access academic information, including grades, unless their students have given written permission. Parents will not even be notified if their students stop going to classes or are failing classes. Now if parents are footing the bill, or even if not, many will insist on access to grades.
"What FERPA Means for You and Your College Student"
"Op-Ed: College Kids Have Too Much Privacy"
Another concern is around healthcare and wellbeing. Should there be a medical emergency, parents cannot find out anything about their teen's condition unless their student has signed a HIPAA waiver. This is true even if teens are covered under the parents' medical insurance and the parents pay their medical bills.
"Will You Be Able to Help Your College-Age Child in a Medical Emergency?"
"Conflicts in Patient Privacy Laws Often Leave Student Health Records Vulnerable"
Now if a teen is balking at the HIPAA release, one option is to have the document specify which issues the student would not want disclosed (involving sex, drugs, mental health, or other sensitive issues, for example), allowing the parent to get information in a medical emergency. Parents will also want to make sure they have the phone numbers for roommates, resident advisors, and a college official (like the freshman dean); if their teen is not responding to calls and there is cause for concern, those numbers will come in handy.
Parents may also wish to consider asking their teen to sign a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy.
"Two Documents Every 18-Year-Old Should Sign"
"What Legal Documents Do College Students Need?"

2. Communication
How often do you expect to be in touch with your college student? What method will work best for both of you? Phone, Skype, email, text? Is a weekly appointment feasible or does your teen prefer a more flexible arrangement? What is your wish? Now is the time to make your preferences and expectations clear, while allowing some leeway to your teen, who may be anxious to demonstrate his/her independence. Agree on an initial plan that seems feasible for all parties, then see how it plays out and change it as needed.

3. Visits
Do you expect your teen to come home on holidays and school breaks? Is it ok if they'd rather go to a friend's home for Thanksgiving or spring break? Do you think you'll be able to come for parent's weekend or will you plan to visit another time? What are your and your teen's wishes and expectations? It may be too soon to tell but if you have a strong desire, voice it now.

Practical Resources include:

A step-by-step list of things to do, from decision to move-in day, such as:
• Booking hotel rooms ASAP for parents' weekend
• Securing scholarship money to close financial aid gaps
• Understanding your health plan options and HIPAA waivers

The life skills every student should learn before leaving home, including:
• Staying safe and handling a medical emergency
• Managing expenses and staying on a budget
• Handling common roommate problems

The most comprehensive college packing list, for every category, featuring:
• Dorm life essentials and what's a waste of money
• Extensive product information and reviews
• Packing and move-in day tips to ensure a stress-free move

Hundreds of resources, with links at your fingertips, including:
• The best stores for college dorm shopping, with tips on student discounts
• Where to buy, rent, and sell textbooks so you never pay full price
• Great books, websites, and blogs for both students and parents