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How to Get Your Teen Ready for College

As parents, our primaryobjectives for raising our children tend to center around preparing them fortheir adult lives. One of the first steps toward independence and adulthood formany teens is going to college.

When you’re preparing a teen togo to college, there are logistical things to think about, such as insuranceand health care, and psychological and mental components, and there are generalthings you can do to help them better prepare to be on their own.

The following are some generaland specific things to know and do to help your teen get ready for college.

College Students and Insurance

Even though your teen is going to soon be on their own,there will be things they’ll continue to need your help with. Insurance can beone of those. This includes auto insurance and health insurance.

If your teen is going away for school, you should leavethem on your car insurance policy as long as they’re considered adependent. Parents often wonder if they should get their teen a separate carinsurance policy when they leave home, and the answer is no.

Even if your teen isn’t driving their own vehicle at school,leave them on your policy anyway. For example, your car insurance policy willcover your teen under personal injury protection coverage.

That covers medical expenses that stem from car accidents,even if your teen is riding in another person’s car.

Your teen doesn’t need to get their own car insurance policyuntil they are the sole owner listed on a vehicle title, and they are livingfinancially independently on their own.

What about health insurance?

Most college students will stay on their parents’ plans whenthey’re under the age of 26. As a parent, you may need to contactyour health insurance company and ask about out-of-state coverage.

Student coverage can be another option if your teen doesn’thave insurance through your family for some reason, or a student, particularlyone who’s financially independent, could purchase a plan through the insurancemarketplace.

Life Skills

Well in advance of your teen heading off to school, try tostart working with him or her on developing essential life skills.

For example, does your teen know how to do laundry? Manyteens surprisingly don’t, and they can come home for fall break with a lot ofdiscolored or ruined clothes.

Go over separating laundry and general things like ironing.

You should work with your teen on general cleaning skillsand simple meal preparation. Your teen probably won’t have access to a kitchen,so keep that in mind.

Physical Health

Beforeyour teen goes to college, take them to their hometown health care providerfor a checkup. If they take any medications, ensure they have those ready to goand make sure their vaccines are updated as well.

If your teen is going to live in a dorm on campus, they maybe required to get a meningitis vaccine. There is a relatively new one calledMenactra, and it’s geared specifically toward the strain of meningitis thatoften occurs on college campuses.

Goover your teen’s physical health with them—for example, many teens gainweight during their first year of college, which is the so-called “Freshman15.” Talk to your teen about making healthy food choices and staying physicallyactive.

Discuss substance use on college campuses and go over thesituations that your teen may face and the health consequence they can create.

Many parents aren’t aware of the risks of teens takingprescription drugs on campus, so speak with your teen about illicit use ofprescription medications, including pain medicines and stimulants likeAdderall.

Mental and Emotional Health

Encourage your teen to share their worries with you abouttheir new lives at college. Go over what your teen should do or know if theystart to experience issues while they’re at school, and how to serve as theirown advocate.

For example, what if your teen starts to feel as if they’redrowning in school work? Let them know who to speak with on campus, such astheir academic counselor, and how to make the necessary adjustments.

Colleges also have mental health programs that can be anexcellent resource during a stressful time of transition.

Budgeting

Many teens don’t work during their first year of collegebecause they’re already under tremendous pressure academically, socially, andemotionally.

If your student isn’t working, talkabout budgeting. Plan to give your teen a set amount of money each monthbased on their needs. Talk to your teen about making smart financial choicesand avoiding things like new credit cards. Credit card companies often targetvulnerable college students.

A prepaid debit card can be a good option or collegestudents because it forces them to manage their money, and it’s a good way forthem to learn money skills they can use for a lifetime. It also gives youcontrol over their finances, even though they’re making the day-to-daydecisions.

Time Management

One area where college students tend to struggle, especiallyinitially, is with time management. When they live at home, they may be used tomanaging their time for them in many ways, but they won’t have that supervisionand structure while they’re at school.

Talk to your teen about different strategiesfor effective time management and how to ensure they’re studying enough.

Finally, create a communication plan with your teen ifthey’re leaving the city or state for school. For example, do you hope thatyour teen will check in with you primarily via email, or phone? How often wouldyou like to hear from your child while you’re away?

Set expectations for checking in so you can both stay on thesame page, and you’ll have a red flag something could be up if your teendoesn’t stick to the plan.

Getting a teen prepared for college is no easy feat, butit’s an important job for parents and one we take seriously.

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