Legal Documents for College

If your child is headed off to college in the fall, you are probably worrying about a lot of things: What if he has a medical emergency while at school? What if he runs out of money? How will I know he is passing if I don’t see any of his school work?

There are documents pertaining to health, money, and college records that your child can sign to give you some peace of mind. Not all of these are required, but you may want to consider if you need them or not.

Health

The health of your child is of your utmost concern, and this does not end when they go off to college. However, when your child turns 18 your access to their medical records ends unless you complete a form called a HIPAA Authorization. Your child signs the authorization, giving you access to their records, appointments, test results, etc. Talk to your pediatrician’s office about completing a form, along with a Health Care Proxy (also known as a Health Care Power of Attorney). If your child is attending college out of state, you should complete a proxy form in that state as well, as the laws vary by state. Keep copies of these records in a safe place, and, perhaps, electronically so you can retrieve them quickly. Your child may need a physical and proof that they are up-to-date with immunizations before moving on to campus—that is a perfect time for you and your child to sign these forms in front of a witness.

Finances

You want your child to be responsible for their money, but what if they need money in an emergency? Do they have access to a credit card? Can you transfer money to their account? Opening a bank account or credit card attached to your account will allow you to monitor their spending and make it easy to transfer money to the student. What if the student loses their wallet? Keep copies of the front and back of all credit, debit, and insurance cards, in case you need to report them lost or cancel them. Students today can easily take pictures of their important documents and keep them on their phones.  Some families chose to work with an attorney to draw up Health Care and Financial Power of Attorney forms, so that you can act on the child’s behalf in financial matters as well.

Student Records

The college will ask your student to complete a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) form, typically at orientation.  This is a document that will allow you to access to the student’s academic and financial information. Speak to your child about including your name, along with any other family members that need access to this information, on the form. Otherwise, when you call the Financial Aid Office to check on the status of a loan, the Bursar’s Office to check the balance on the account, or the Registrar’s Office to check your child’s grade point average, you will be denied access.

Taking these steps prior to the start of college will give you, as a parent, the peace of mind they need as your child heads out of sight, but not out of mind.

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Written by Laurie Peltier
Laurie Peltier is a college finance expert at College Coach. Before joining College Coach, she was a Senior Financial Aid Officer at Becker College and Anna Maria College.