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Freshman 101 For Parents

Tis August and freshmen everywhere are preparing for their first year of college. Among other things here are some tips for parents and students. Quick note: Several states offer ‘No sales tax’ days. Check this list for your state.

Check with your school for a list of things to bring. It is generally better to travel light and purchase items that you need at the city in which your school is located. Remember that most dorms use XL (extra long) twin sheets.

Purchase items at major stores such  Walmart.com, JC Penny and Sears so that you can return or exchange items easily.

Save money on delivery, chose Walmart.com , Sears, Best Buy and have your items delivered to a store near your school.

Now is a great time to purchase a laptop. Check the policy of your school regarding WiFi service .  Depending upon the  school’s security for it’s wifi network , you might want to investigate at portable wifi card or wifi hotspot using a smart phone.  But when looking at these options,  remember to discuss with your  freshman how much data can be downloaded on the plan before  overage charges are incurred.

USB keys are great, but a portable external hard drive is a better deal. Why? Your student can use a portable hard drive for backup or they can install any software programs that they require on the drive and then take the drive with them to the library or study sessions.

Add an online document back p service such as Mozy.  Mozy is free for the first 2 GB.  Mozy  runs in the background and can be set to automatically back up data.  This service can be a real life saver in case of  theft, hard drive crash or just a simple “I lost my laptop”.  

Phone Service.  Check your plan for the best rates and service if your freshman will be traveling to a different city. Now is a great time to visit Skype (VOIP) particularly if your child will be outside the US. Why? With Skype computer to computer calls are free. You can also purchase an inexpensive USB telephone (as little as $10 or you can purchase an adapter for your regular telephone) to use with the service. Other suggestions for international students are calling programs through your cel phone carrier that are specific to the country in which your child will live.

Textbooks:  You can save by checking with instructors as to which books are really needed. Review return policies before you buy.. Nothing worse than dropping a class and being stuck with the books.  Options today include, new, used, rentals and etextbooks. Price your books both at the campus bookstore and online.  Doesn’t hurt to ask  for price matching.

Checking Accounts: Set up an account with both your child’s and your name on it.  Make sure that there are branches in the city where your child will be attending school and where you live.  In case of emergency, nothing is faster or easier than being able to deposit cash directly into your freshman’s account.

 Credit Cards: If your freshman doesn’t have one for emergencies, get one before they leave for college.  (And have the discussion as to what constitutes an ‘emergency’.)  Another option is to add them to one of your credit card or  check out programs such as parentspaymybills.com.  

 Another good tip is to teach your freshman to list each credit card transaction in their check register just as they would a check.  Why?  Because doing so makes spending the money real.  Try it for yourself.

Another reason to get a card before arriving on campus is that it is easier to compare rates and evaluate programs. Also set the limit low, no more than $1500.  Why? Because in an emergency, that should be more than enough for a last minute plane ticket, but not enough to plunge your freshman into catastrophic debt.

Password protect & label all electronic equipment.  Why?  Should something be lost, it is more likely to be returned if 1) the finder can’t use it and 2) the finder can contact the owner.  Add a LoJack  program to the laptop and retrieval tags to all electronics.

If your freshman is taking a car to college, a AAA (or equivalent) automobile card can buy you a little more peace of mind.

Home Insurance:  Check your insurance policy for replacement coverage for your freshman’s computer, electronics, personal belongings and identity theft.  Why?  Because it isn’t just your freshman in the dorm but also their roommates.  And more importantly, because you were 18 once too!

Medical/Dental Insurance:  If your  plan will cover your child, then search for doctors and office location now, before your child needs help.  Also, locate the nearest hospital or emergency room near your child’s school that accepts your insurance program.

Links for this article:   

AAA Automobile Club

No Sales Tax Calendar

Linens N’ Things


JC Penny



Discover® Student Card  Dell Computers (Notebook Computers)

Hewlett-Packard (Notebook Computers)



Amazon (General)

Amazon (Textbooks)

Amazon (Portable External Hard Drive)

Skype (VOIP) Amazon (Textbooks)