Checklist for Setting Your High School Senior Up for College Independence

Checklist for Setting Your High School Senior Up for College Independence

Checklist for Setting Your High School Senior Up for College Independence

Published June 29, 2021 | Last Updated December 29th, 2023 at 10:59 am

Checklist for Setting Your High School Senior Up for College Independence

It may seem like only yesterday that your rising college freshman was beginning their high school career.

My, how time flies!

Now, they’re ready to embark on an exciting new journey . . . with your guidance and expertise to help them along the way, of course.

“Adulting” can be tough, but there are some essential details you can go over with them to make the transition for you both as smooth as possible.


  • If your student has an iPhone, make sure they download and install the Find My iPhone app, a free tool they can use to locate their device on a map should it ever go missing. Android users can install the comparable Find My Device app.
  • Create a private Google doc to share between you both filled with important information, including emergency contact numbers. Make sure you, their parents, are listed in their phones as their emergency contacts.
  • If they ever dial 911, you will also be notified.
  • If you’re active on Facebook, consider joining a group for other parents of students at the college your child will be attending. This is a great way to build a backup support network and get crucial info so you can be aware if any on-campus issues arise before your student reports back to you.
  • Swap contact information with your student’s new roommates (and their parents) in case of emergency, and let them know they can come to you and feel safe should anything go wrong.
  • Mistakes and accidents happen, but students are far more likely to alert an adult they feel will help them instead of judging them.
  • Sit down with your child and help them brainstorm a set of reminders they can plug into their phones, like when to change the oil on their car or get their tires rotated. This can save you big money on costly future repairs.
  • Finally, have your student set up their student email account with a professional signature and remind them to regularly check it.

Finance and Commerce 

  • Opening a local bank account in the town your student will be attending is always a wise idea, as is having them get a debit card linked to that account.
  • Make sure you explain the differences between checking and savings accounts, and that they understand how to write, sign, and deposit a check as well as keep a careful checkbook whether on paper or virtually.
  • It may also be helpful if both of you set up either a Venmo or Cash App account so that in case of emergency, you can wire them cash right away.
  • Remind them how to address and stamp an envelope and help them locate the nearest post office either on or off campus. You can also use sites like Yelp or Google Maps to help them make a list of the nearest grocery stores, gas stations, car washes, and convenience stores to their dorm room.


  • Before your student is whisked away to live life on campus, make sure that if they’re bringing a car, the insurance is updated. Have them keep both a digital and hard copy on hand, and you may want to make a copy for yourself.
  • If they haven’t already been taught, teach your child how to jump-start a car and make sure they have jumper cables in the trunk in case of emergency.
  • As previously advised, make sure they have reminders in their phone for routine maintenance.
  • If your student won’t be driving their freshman year, have them budget money for public transit, and in the event it may not be readily available, rideshares and taxis when needed.
  • If they’ll be going to school in a big city, get them a physical map of the public transportation system and see if you can find at least one virtual app that will update them on bus reroutes, train delays, and the like.

Health and Medical 

  • Before they step on campus for their first day, you should help your student decide which doctor and dentist they plan to visit when needed. Most colleges have campus health centers with medical services included in the cost of tuition, and at larger universities with dental schools, college students can often get low-cost to free services from dental students.
  • Help your student determine where the nearest urgent care centers are to campus and what their hours are, as well as local community hospitals. Show them how to present their insurance card and fill out an intake form on their own.
  • Be sure to set up an advance directive and/or power of attorney in the event your student is unable to make their own medical decisions, such as in a serious medical emergency.
  • Have them sign one for the state they will be attending college in, which can be found for free online.
  • If your child is okay with it, you can get on their Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) form. FERPA ensures that students can see their educational records, but others can’t unless the student grants them permission to view such “directory information” (including the student’s name, major, and year). FERPA exists to protect both institutions and families and keep their educational records private from the public.

While this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s a great start for students who will be living away from home for the first time and will need to navigate their own technology, finances, transportation, and health without the help of a parent. 


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Mental Health in College Students: A Guide for Families and Friends

High School Transition to College: A Parent’s Guide

Supporting College Student Mental Health




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