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College Bound!

Tips to help parents (and their students) transition to safe and healthy campus life.

Your Local Health | Written by BJ Towe

Like most new adventures, leaving home for college is exciting and perhaps a little terrifying. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says some advanced planning and the simple offer of support can make the transition easier – for both you and your student. Here are some quick checklists to help ease the transition for both of you.


  • Schedule a pre-college appointment with your student's primary care provider, who can make sure s/he is up-to-date on vaccines and other preventive health measures. They can also discuss ways to avoid, prepare for, and manage any health risk situations your student may encounter.

  • Gather health information. Your student's school is apt to request health insurance information, immunization records, information about chronic health conditions, medication and dosage information, and other health-related information. Due to HIPAA, your student will need to work with their current healthcare provider to gather this information. You can be there to help them understand what s/he will need to request.
  • Make sure your student has health insurance, which is required by most colleges. If your student isn't covered under your policy, check into coverage offered by the school or via the Health Insurance Marketplace (
  • Be sure your student knows where to go if they get sick or injured at college. Take the time to locate: the student health center on campus and local Urgent Care and/or Emergency Room locations.
  • If your student needs prescription refills, ask your primary care provider or college health center how to best arrange for refilling medications.
  • If your student has a specific mental health diagnosis (e.g., ADHD, depression, eating disorder, etc.), develop a care plan with your primary care provider and college before school begins. If appropriate, encourage your teen to talk with the college about special accommodations available for students with certain diagnoses.
  • Talk with your student about peer pressure, making good decisions, and consequences. Alcohol, drugs, and sexual activity may be more accessible at college. Be clear about your expectations for their behavior as they live more independently. Be sure they know where to go for reproductive healthcare services.
  • Once school begins, stay in close contact. Try to assess how your student is doing socially and academically. The first month is particularly important since most incoming freshmen do not yet have many friends. It's normal for them to have days when they feel said or homesick, but if these feelings interfere with their ability to function, they should talk with trained counselors on campus and understand that is okay and encouraged. Watch for warning signs and be prepared to act.


  • See your doctor. Make sure you have all of the recommended vaccines and other preventive healthcare services you need.

  • If you have a medical condition or health issue, be sure you are well-informed about it. As soon as you arrive at college, make sure your roommates or others close to you know about your health condition, signs of problems, and what to do in an emergency.
  • Know where to go if you have a health problem. For example, know where the student health center is on campus and where to go if you need urgent care or an emergency room.
  • If you take a prescribed medication, be sure you know the name of it, how it is to be taken, any side effects, and if you cannot have certain foods or drinks while taking it. Know where and how to get refills.
  • Pack and keep an emergency kit under your bed in the dorm. Include a flashlight and batteries, nonperishable food and water, basic first aid supplies, and extra medication. These can come in handy in the event of a blizzard, storms, or another scenario that could keep you in the dorm for a while.
  • Participate in healthy activities on campus. Eat right, get enough sleep (8 or 9 hours a night!) and stay active to keep stress under control. Studies show that most college students don't engage in risky behaviors – like using drugs, drinking, or having multiple sexual partners – so know that you don't need to do these things to fit in.
  • Beware of the “freshman 15.” Weight-gain is common among students who overindulge in the dining hall's offerings, other eateries, and late-night snacks. Be sure you get enough protein, veggies, and other nutritious foods, and be cautious of how much fat, sugar, and sodium you consume.
  • Learn about on-campus services available to you. Your college may offer support groups and student services to help you transition to campus life. If you feel sad, homesick, or a bit lost for more than week or so, or if those feelings interfere with your ability to work or enjoy college, please ask for help. The health center or counseling center on campus is a good place to start.

The Iowa Clinic Primary Care Department is here to help your student transition from home to college-life. Give us a call to make an appointment at one of our eight convenient locations at 515.875.9000.

Source: Checklists are based on information from the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Tips for the College Freshman.

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