For some parents, it seems all that all they did was blink and their babies morphed overnight into young adults. In reality, the parents probably spent years preparing for that moment. The door shuts on childhood and swings open the door to adulthood. When your child goes to college, some important things change.
Everything that happens when your student is 18, a legal adult, and headed to college
For starters, parents (and their student) need to talk about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The first exposure to FERPA will likely come during the college admissions application process. Students will be presented with a FERPA statement when applying to, or accepting an offer of admission from, any school that receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education — which they will be required to sign.
Signing the FERPA statement is an acknowledgement by the student that he/she understands his/her right to review their academic record, control disclosure, and request changes if an error is detected.
According to Eric Stoller, Student Affairs and Technology blogger for Inside Higher Ed, FERPA can be the basis for some amazing conversations between students and their parents. “The biggest thing about FERPA is that most schools have clearly defined policies that are available for parents/families. The education about FERPA starts during the Admissions process and really takes hold during Orientation. Most people are okay with FERPA once they realize that it was designed to protect a student’s privacy.”
Getting the bill vs. footing the tuition bill
Another change that takes place when your child goes to college: once your child accepts an offer of admission, communication from the school with the parents pretty much disappears — if it has not already done so. Your child will receive the tuition bill and any information related to financial aid and/or scholarships. Many schools have moved to online payment of tuition and fees.
Regardless of who is actually paying for college, it’s the student who gets the bill online, not the parent. Students who, as high schoolers, rarely checked their email now must do so in order to keep up with deadlines and notifications.
Stoller points out that some schools have systems to help parents when it comes to keeping abreast of information available only online. “There have actually been some developments on the part of student online services providers to create access points for parents/families to be able to access tuition/billing information (with their student’s permission) for the purposes of account payments,” says Stoller. He stresses that communication between the student and the parent(s) is necessary to make this happen, especially since it involves access to a student’s record.
Out of sight, but not out of mind
When it comes to student safety, the Dean of Students Office becomes the point of contact for parents, especially for emergencies. “It is important for families to connect with campus offices that are authorized to act as student advocates,” says Stoller. “Technically, once they are 18, a student is in control of their lives. Realistically speaking, most traditionally-aged students are going to be on their parent/family insurance, be part of a tax filing, etc.”
Other 18-year milestones
If your child is male, he must register with the federal Selective Service when he turns 18, or within 30 days of that birthday.
An 18 year-old is a legal adult and is held accountable to the law. This includes voting, driving, paying taxes, serving jury duty, owning/buying property or firearms, and what constitutes consensual sex.
Some laws pertaining to when your child goes to college may vary by state. Check with the state government for the specifics related to where he/she is attending college — not where parents live. Continue to have those all-important conversations with your young adult!
Looking for more like this? Check out our College Admissions section.