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Essential Documents Every College-Bound Student Should Complete

6 Essential Documents Every College-Bound Student Should Complete

College is a significant milestone for young adults, marking their first steps into independence. But with this newfound freedom comes a host of responsibilities, not just academically but also legally. Once students hit 18, a protective bubble that parents might not even be aware of pops. Suddenly, parents no longer have automatic access to their child’s financial and medical records.


But why is this a concern? Imagine your child faces a medical emergency or needs help with finances. Without the necessary permissions, you're left in the dark, potentially unable to assist or even get basic information. To ensure you're prepared, here are six essential documents every college-bound student should have:


1. Universal HIPAA Release Form:

Once your child turns 18, getting information from their doctor becomes a challenge. With the Universal HIPAA release form, medical details can be shared with designated individuals, like parents. This form is especially useful for students traveling abroad or attending out-of-state colleges. Remember, it’s not just about emergencies – even something as simple as obtaining lab results requires this form. Check out the American Bar Association for a sample.


2. Healthcare Proxy:

Also known as a healthcare power of attorney, this document allows a designated person to make medical decisions on the student's behalf if they're incapacitated. This could be vital in emergencies. While parents are the usual go-to, any trusted adult can be chosen. It's also worth noting that while most states recognize proxies from other states, if your child is attending an out-of-state college, double-check both states' regulations.


3. Living Will:

It's a topic no one likes to broach, but it's crucial. A living will lets a young adult specify which lifesaving measures they’re comfortable with, from CPR to artificial nutrition. It can also address pain management and organ donation. In critical situations, this document ensures there's no confusion about the student's wishes. State-specific forms are available on the AARP website.


4. Durable Power of Attorney for Finances:

Life gets busy in college, and sometimes students might miss paying a bill. Parents, aiming to help, might find themselves locked out of online accounts. A durable power of attorney provides parents the legal authority to step in financially, whether it’s paying rent or settling a credit card bill. It's advisable to consult with an attorney to understand state-specific laws and determine the extent of authority the document should grant.


5. Health Insurance:

While young adults can often remain on their parent’s health insurance until age 26, some might opt for a school's insurance plan. Parents should consider gaining access to this plan to stay informed about billing and coverage.


6. FERPA Waiver:

Here's a surprise for many: even if you’re footing the college bill, you don’t automatically have access to your child's grades. Thanks to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), academic records are off-limits. However, with a FERPA waiver, students can grant their parents access to academic and financial aid details.



It's natural for young adults to feel invincible, thinking, “That won't happen to me.” But life is unpredictable. Having these documents in place isn't about hovering or invading privacy. It's about ensuring that, in a crisis, the focus remains on the solution, not on bureaucratic hurdles. As they set off on this exciting journey, it's crucial to ensure they're fully equipped, not just with dorm essentials, but with these legal safeguards too. After all, as the saying goes, "It's better to be safe than sorry."