Health ServicesTips for Parents
Information for Parents
The beginning of a college career marks many changes in students and their relationships with family and friends. It can also mean changes in beliefs, values, behaviors, and attitudes. Parents and family members provide a crucial support base for these new experiences. Understanding and adjusting to these changes is an exciting challenge for both students and parents.
What does it mean to be the parent of a college student? Parents play a vital role in the lives of college bound students, and many students still count on their parents to remain a steady and stable source of support and guidance. Parents can serve as mentors, offering advice and encouragement, while also promoting the independence, autonomy, and responsibility that are necessary for college life and beyond.
As students move from dependence towards independence it’s important that they learn how to navigate the healthcare system and take responsibility for managing their own health. You can help your student prepare for these new responsibilities by discussing expectations ahead of time and by allowing your student to practice these skills before arriving on campus. The more comfortable your student feels about managing these responsibilities now, the less stressful they will seem in the fall.
Get a Physical and Update Vaccinations
Most colleges require medical information, health insurance, and up to date vaccines to attend. You’ll need to have this information together to give to the school. Students living in dorms are at increased risk of illness but many of these are preventable with vaccines. You can help keep your student healthy and safe by scheduling a physical to evaluate for health concerns and discuss recommended vaccinations before coming to college. Encourage your student to protect themself by getting their yearly influenza vaccination each fall. Make sure to let the college know if your student has any severe allergies or other problems that might require accommodation.
Navigating Insurance and the Healthcare System
You can help your student by allowing them to make their own health appointments before coming to college and by instilling in them a sense of personal responsibility for health-related issues. The first time students experience illness away from home can feel overwhelming. Help your student understand how to take care of themself when they become ill. You can provide guidance for the use of over-the-counter medications and supplies to treat minor illness and injuries. Review with them how to access campus health services, local clinics and pharmacies.
Understanding Health Insurance
Many new college students don’t have much experience dealing with health insurance. Take some time to review this with them. Your student should know what local clinics and hospitals take their insurance in case of illness or an emergency. They should have their own insurance card and understand how their coverage works, how to use it and how to contact the insurance company with questions.
Utilizing Campus Resources
Along with all of the changes and challenges that college life brings, many students experience stress and anxiety. You can help your student by encouraging them to become familiar with University resources and to seek assistance when needed. Students should know which department to call when problems arise. You can help by resisting the urge to ‘come to the rescue’ by contacting the University departments yourself. Instead, encourage your student to contact the University departments directly. By encouraging students to take responsibility for themselves, parents and family members demonstrate confidence in their students. This confidence empowers students to be self-reliant and independent. Students who don’t know where to go for help can reach out to the Student Success Center, Office of Student Life, their Resident Assistant or Hall Director for assistance.
If stress and anxiety become more severe Counseling Services are available to help support your student. Often students are more likely to reach out for help when they know that family is supportive of their using counseling services. You can help reduce the stigma of mental health by making it clear to your student that you support them in seeking the help and support they need.
University of Michigan (2019). Preparing your student for campus life.