Your College Freshman: The Summer Flood of Information
When your student was in high school, she 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 her 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. And 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 she make sure that she sets that up as soon as the college gives her the log-in information. Be sure to ask her whether she’s done that.
Once your student’s e-mail is set up and she begins to receive information, the summer work begins. Remember, though, that it is her work, not yours. It is important that your student read all of the information that she receives. Ask her to share with you any information that you need to have, but it is also important that your student take charge of dealing with her 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 her college experience. Suggest that she stay organized and make a calendar with deadlines, but try to let her take the lead in the process as much as possible.
Although it is tempting at this point to ask your student to share her passwords with you so that you can help her 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 she is not prepared to be checking her e-mail and corresponding with her new school, she 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. She should be sure that she has 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 she is included on your health insurance. Make sure that she has her 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 for her 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 she will be expected to complete. Some of these assessments may be online. It is important that she complete this information early as it may impact her schedule for fall semester.
- Registration information: Your student will receive information about what she needs to do to register for her fall classes. She 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 she will need,
- 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, she may receive information from her 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.
- Information about cars: If your student is allowed to bring a car to campus, she may receive 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, she will receive additional forms.
A true flood of information indeed!
If your student is prepared to receive and act upon the information that the college shares with her, she will begin the fall semester feeling in control. If she does not check her e-mail or pay attention to information as it arrives, she will likely feel very overwhelmed in the last few days before she leaves for school or when she first arrives. Some forms may be completed relatively quickly and others may take considerable time and effort. Encourage your student to stay organized.
Finally, remember that if your student will be traveling over the summer or away for an extended period of time, she may need to check with the college about information that will be arriving in hard copy. She will either need to have her mail forwarded or ask whether she can receive the information electronically.
There is a lot to do during the summer before freshman year, but if your student is prepared, she will take it in stride – and you’ll be able to step back and let her take control.