August is a significant month for students and families as the college year typically begins. For those of you who have a student heading off to college this month, we are sure you are working diligently to prepare for the upcoming year and college experience as a whole.

Whether your student is traveling a far distance to go to college and living in a new state or your student has chosen to live at home and commute to campus, there are still very important considerations to make to ensure that your student has the appropriate legal and health paperwork that can support them and your family through this transition and new experience. 

Here are some important legal and health documents that every family should know about as they plan for their student to attend college: 

FERPA (Family Educational and Rights to Privacy Act) Release Form/Waiver – The FERPA release/waiver form is provided to students (18 years or older) who want a family member or another designated person to have access to their academic records including their transcript, grade reports, financial accounts, and/or if they want to speak to their academic advisor. Students are neither required nor expected to sign the waiver and it is not necessary for family members to have access to this information. The college will only speak to a family if this release form is signed and is included in the student’s academic file. While the college provides the waiver form to students, it should not be assumed that a student will sign the form. It is vital that students have open lines of communication with their family members but it is also helpful for family members to honor a student’s right to privacy and decision-making. 

Authorized Payer – Per FERPA, a student has full authority and privacy over their financial accounts at the college. Parents/family members cannot have access to the student account without expressed written permission. If a student wants their family to view or pay bills, enroll in payment plans, view transaction history, and have direct deposit for parent loans, creating an authorized payer is required. It is important to note that providing authorized payer access can be given to a family without a signed FERPA waiver.

HIPAA (Health Information Privacy) Authorization – It is recommended that a student fill out this form before they arrive at college. Often colleges will ask for this form to be filed in case a student chooses to use the college’s health and wellness resources like the Health Center or Counseling Center. This signed authorization will allow a family member to inquire about any medical issues that might come up and so they can have access to speak to your medical care providers in case of an emergency. If a student attends a college out-of-state, it is recommended that a HIPAA form be filled out for both states. The college will provide this waiver form and students with current healthcare issues should discuss with their family members when and how the authorization should be used.

Psychiatric Advance Directive – If a student is under psychiatric care at the time they are attending college, it is recommended that family members seek to get a directive in case their student has a psychiatric emergency while in college. This will allow a designated person to make healthcare decisions on their behalf. The directive empowers the student to determine their care team in case they face a crisis and need support. This form and information can be available online. 

Medical Power of Attorney (Healthcare Proxy) – This will allow a parent/family member to make medical decisions for a student in case of a medical emergency and the student is unable to help in their own medical care. If a student is attending college out-of-state, a healthcare proxy form should be available for the home state and the state where the college is located. Information about the Medical Power of Attorney is available online and families are encouraged to consult legal aid for more information. Durable Power of Attorney – This form will allow a designated person to access a student’s bank accounts, credit cards, file a tax return, or handle other financial matters. Both this form and the Medical Power of Attorney are helpful to have available in case of emergency. If a student is provided the opportunity to travel during college, especially overseas, documents like these are very important to have. Information about the durable power of attorney can be found online or in consultation with legal aid. 

Living Will – If a student has assets or plays a fundamental role in the care of younger family members and has been designated as a guardian of a minor, having a legal document that states who should receive the assets and/or how the minor child/children should be cared for in case of death is very important. There are templates available online that can be filled out but it must be notarized in order for it to be considered legally valid. 

While not all legal and health documents mentioned here are appropriate for every student or every family, they are worth exploring to determine if they might be useful in supporting your student as they navigate the business of college, as well as their personal health and wellness over the next year and beyond.

We recommend that families explore these documents and options further through online sources and with the support of legal and medical professionals when appropriate. Doing a Google search will generate opportunities for access to legal documents that are not provided by the college or you can consult professionals directly who could provide guidance about getting all necessary documents in place by the time the school year begins. 

Ensuring your student has a smooth transition to college is important and knowing they are protected and supported in the case of unforeseen situations will also provide a peace of mind that helps everyone adapt to this new and exciting time in life. 

To learn more about our college counseling services and how we support families through the college application process, or to schedule a complimentary introductory phone consultation, please visit