Your College Freshman: The Summer Flood of Information

When your student was in high school, they probably received what may have felt like an overwhelming amount of recruiting material from colleges.  Some may have come in the physical mail, and much of it may have come electronically.  Whatever its form, it just kept coming.

Now that your student has been accepted to college, has paid the deposit at their chosen school, and is about to head to college in a few short weeks, there is a new flood of information arriving – and this flood may make the earlier information seem like a mere trickle.  There is an important difference this time: this information is crucial and should be carefully read and considered.

Lots of summer information

Although some of the summer information arriving from your student’s new college may come in hard copy through the mail, much of it will come electronically.  And the information that arrives electronically will be sent to your student, not to you.  It will most likely arrive at your student’s new college e-mail address, so it is important that your student make sure that they set that up as soon as the college sends the log-in information.  Be sure to ask whether that’s done.

Once your student’s e-mail is set up and they begin to receive information, the summer work begins.  Remember, though, that it is your student’s work, not yours. It is important that your student read all of the information that the college sends.  Ask your student to share with you any information that you need to have, but it is also important that your student take charge of dealing with the summer tasks.  If you were instrumental in keeping the college application process organized, it is tempting to step in and keep this process on track as well.  However, this is a good first opportunity for your student to feel in charge of the college experience.  Suggest that they stay organized and make a calendar with deadlines, but try to let your student take the lead in the process as much as possible.

Although it is tempting at this point to ask your student to share passwords with you so that you can help them stay organized, this will not help your student take charge.  Don’t step in.  Ask your student to share information with you as needed.  This may be difficult, but it is important for your student.

Your student should expect to receive a wide variety of material.  Some will be simply informative, and some will be forms that will require action on your student’s part.  Some forms will need to be returned over the summer and some will need to be brought when your student arrives on campus.  Some responses may be optional and other information will be required.  It is important that your student keep track of which is which.

What should your student expect to receive?

Your student may not be sure what to expect over the summer.  If they not prepared to be checking e-mail and corresponding with their new school, they will be taken by surprise. Each school may ask for different information, and each school will communicate differently.  Your student may receive many separate pieces of information or may be directed to a central place with a checklist to complete.

Here are some of the kinds of communication your student may expect to receive, although most schools may not include all of these over the summer.

  • Health forms: These will need to be signed by your student’s doctor. Your student should be sure that they have an appointment for a check-up and any necessary vaccinations. This might also include a Healthcare Proxy or Medical Information Release form.
  • Health insurance forms: Your student will either need to purchase the college’s health insurance or show proof that they are included on your health insurance. Make sure that your student has their own health insurance card.
  • Other insurance information: The school may have optional renter’s insurance (check to see whether your student is covered on your homeowner’s policy) or tuition insurance.
  • Student account information: The school may send information about accounts that your student needs to create. In addition to an e-mail account, this may include a student Portal or other campus accounts.
  • Technology information: The technology department may send information about what kind of computer to consider, what kind of support is available, and information your student may need about internet, routers, and/or printers.
  • Housing information: Your student may be asked to complete a housing information form that will be used to assign roommates and/or residence halls. There may be important information about what your student should bring to furnish a room and/or what items are not allowed in residence halls.
  • Financial information: This information will include everything from tuition bills, to financial aid forms, to work study information and campus employment options. There are often many forms to be completed before the beginning of school.
  • Placement information: Your student may receive information about placement tests that they will be expected to complete. Some of these assessments may be online.  It is important that they complete this information early as it may impact their schedule of classes for fall semester.
  • Registration information: Your student will receive information about what needs to be done to register for  fall classes. They may need to complete a class preference form. Some schools may have students complete registration when they arrive in the fall, but many schools have students complete course schedules either at orientation, by phone, or electronically. If your student’s school automatically assigns fall courses, your student may be able access her schedule online.
  • Textbook information: Your student may receive information about how to order textbooks and how to access information about what textbooks will be needed,
  • Online tutorials: Some schools may require students to complete online tutorials before arriving on campus. These might include everything from an alcohol education program to a plagiarism tutorial.
  • Departmental communication: If your student has declared a major, they may receive information from the intended department. This might be a simple greeting or could include information about course requirements or departmental events at the beginning of the semester.
  • Food service information: Your student will receive information about signing up for a meal plan and/or food service points.
  • Banking information: Your student may receive information from the school about local banking options, ATMs, etc.
  • Summer reading: Many schools participate in a Common Read program and ask all incoming students to read an assigned book over the summer. This provides a common experience and theme for students when they arrive.
  • FERPA waiver: Some schools require all students to sign a FERPA waiver to allow them to share academic information with parents. Other schools provide the form as an option for families to discuss.  Other schools may not send a form but have it available when requested.
  • Emergency contact and/or Emergency alert information: The school may ask your student to provide emergency contact information or to complete emergency alert information. This would not only allow the school to contact family members in an emergency, but may also register your student to receive alerts in the event of a campus emergency or closing.
  • Calendar information: Your student may receive a calendar of important dates such as Parents’ Weekend, exams, breaks, or end-of-term dates. These will be important if your student needs to make travel arrangements or you need to make hotel reservations.
  • Information about cars: If your student is allowed to bring a car to campus, the school may send information about how to register the car and/or obtain a parking permit.
  • Orientation or welcome activity information: Your student may need to choose or sign up for specific activities during orientation or a welcome period at the beginning of the semester.
  • Athletic forms: If your student is planning to participate in athletics, they will receive additional forms.

A true flood of information indeed!

Be prepared

If your student is prepared to receive and act upon the information that the college shares, they will begin the fall semester feeling in control.  If they do not check e-mail or pay attention to information as it arrives, they will likely feel very overwhelmed in the last few days before leaving for school or arriving on campus.  Some forms may be completed relatively quickly and others may take considerable time and effort.  Encourage your student to stay organized and on top of them as they arrive.

Finally, remember that if your student will be traveling over the summer or away for an extended period of time, they may need to check with the college about information that will be arriving in hard copy.  They will either need to have mail forwarded or ask whether the school will send the information electronically.

There is a lot to do during the summer before freshman year, but if your student is prepared, they can take it in stride – and you’ll be able to step back and give over control.

Related Posts:

Summer Preparations for Your College Student’s Transition to Freshman Year

What Should My Student Consider When Choosing a Schedule of Classes?

Five Conversations Parents and Students Should Have Before the First Year of College

Summer Homework for College Parents

The Summer Before College: A Summer of Decisions


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