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College-bound seniors: A checklist for an exciting and busy time

Between finals, proms and graduation ceremonies, you really want to make a smooth transition from high school to college.

High school seniors are consumed with everything from completing finals, graduation announcements to attending those “once-in-a-lifetime social events.”

Soon, you will be off to college and starting a new chapter of your life. So, in between cap and gown fittings and senior prom we have created a “To Do List” to ensure you and your family are prepared.

1. Make a final college decision: No doubt, the senior year of high school is the final stretch and it is hard for students and aspiring college-bound athletes to focus on anything more than right now, including those graduation parties and final weeks of high school.

The fact is, some high school seniors have not made a final college decision, often waiting for that “perfect” opportunity, while others are taking a “wait and see” approach -- or worse, just simply procrastinating. But the sooner a college decision is made, the sooner other details will fall into place.

If you have chosen a college or are about to, parents should know about the FERPA law.

What FERPA Means for You and Your College Student
Once a student turns 18, or attends school beyond secondary school, the rights of access to the student’s records transfer to the student. What does this mean?

The FERPA rules mean that student academic information such as grades or academic standing (GPA, academic transcript, academic warning, academic probation, or discipline records) will be given to the student and not to the parents. All academic information regarding your college student goes directly to the student unless the student has given specific, written permission to release that information to you.

The only exception to this law is when the parents document in writing that the student is still claimed as a dependent for income tax purposes. However, the college may require you to submit your most recent tax forms in order to support this claim.

Most colleges have a waiver for the student to sign allowing records to be released to parents or to college representatives to discuss the student’s progress with parents. Your student may, or may not, wish to sign this release, however if you are paying for their college education, you might want to know your money is being spent wisely.

Are there any exceptions to the restrictions limiting the release of student information?
There is a health and safety exception to FERPA regulations. If a student is considered a threat to himself or to others, or there is a need to protect the health and safety of the student for some reason, information may be shared with parents. A school may also disclose to parents any violation of the use or possession of drugs or alcohol by students under 21. An important note here is that the law allows, but does not require, such information to be released to parents. School policies may vary widely regarding parental notification policies.

2. High School Transcripts: Always obtain at least three [3] official copies of your final high school transcript and bring them with you. Be prepared to give this to the admissions office, financial aid and/or the athletic department.

As a reminder -- if your goal is to play NCAA Division I or II or NAIA sports, you must be registered with these respective Eligibility Centers (NCAA -- NAIA). If you have not been offered an official athletic opportunity, connect with the coach at your chosen university and ask about being a “preferred walk-on.” While you will not receive any athletic award as a “walk-on” your first year -– you just might earn athletic aid your second year.

3. Complete the FAFSA: The Free Application for Student Financial Aid  the parent and student should complete and submit, because there are deadlines involved. Be sure to check out local state and college deadlines since they will vary. When it comes to other scholarships, each school typically has an area on its website for students to utilize, and often these scholarships/aid is offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s important to get your FAFSA turned in early.

4 . Campus Housing: Depending on the school, you may have received your residence hall and roommate information. If not, you need to get your student housing taken care ASAP. If you have been assigned a “roommate,” try to connect and see what they are planning to bring -- remember you dorm room can be quite small -- so try to plan and prepare.

Review the “Do’s and Don’ts” when getting your dorm ready -- most will not allow you to use hammers and nails to hang photographs, and when it comes to furniture -- ask what you can and can’t have in your room. Same goes for clothes -- don’t bring your entire closet. Bring the essentials you will need till you go home for winter break.

Typically the dorm has a small closet/hanging area, a dresser, chair and bed.

Things you will need:  Shoes for the shower area. Bring a caddy to carry your supplies and at least 2 sets of sheets, 2 pillows, necessary blankets, bath towels and don’t forget laundry supplies. If possible, bring storage containers to store your supplies in your room. Talk with your roommate and share the load -- if you plan to bring a microwave -- your roommate might bring a compact refrigerator. Be sure to bring a first-aid kit and flashlight for emergencies.

When it comes to classes, you will most likely need a laptop and a portable printer. The school will give you access to their wireless network so plan on meeting with their IT person as soon as you can so you will be up and running. Bring HDMI cables, surge protectors, and an alarm clock if you are not using your cell phone to wake you up.

You will have meal-plan options so choose wisely. Know when the cafeteria is open and closed along with the distance from your dorm. Keep cash to a minimum and try to use a debit card when possible. It’s a good idea for parents to create a monthly budget and stick to it!

College life can be exciting so knowing where and whom you'll be living with makes it easier to picture yourself at school and can define other parts of your college life.

If you are going to bring a car … you will most likely need a parking permit and always have proof of insurance. Never loan your car to anyone for any reason. The liability remains the responsibility of you and your family.

Here are a few Health Items to remember:
MMR [Measles, Mumps, and Rubella] proof of immunization is required at all Colleges. Be sure to bring a copy of your vaccination records and always, provide a copy or letter from your doctor that outlines any medical conditions you might have along with a list of prescription drugs you are taking and your primary emergency contact name -- phone -- email etc.

When it comes to prescription drugs, you will need to disclose this information to the admissions office and advise your dorm director as well.

5. Choosing classes:  While most freshman college students don’t know what they want to major in, it’s important to start thinking. The fact is you will need to select your major by year two [2] so look at all your options and explore various courses -- talk to professors and other students. The major you're considering might have perks including scholarships, and other aspects you never considered.

If you're not certain what you want to study in college, use this time to research those that sound the most interesting to you. This may save you time and money once you get to college by avoiding the numerous major switches that can plague undergrads and cost you time and money.

6. Sign up for new student orientation: Orientation sessions can fill up fast, and your school may have specific sessions for freshman students or your chosen major that you'll need to get into. If you're busy with sports, work, or vacation during the summer, make sure to register for orientation sooner rather than later to ensure you find a session you can attend.

New College Students:
College life can be exciting and it can also cause panic. Some students are natural at making new friends, while others not so much. Either way -- you really should check out student-social clubs and meet people. The worse thing for freshman students is feeling lonely and homesick. Let yourself become part of the college experience -- get involved -- get active and above all, remember you are not alone.

(Lisa Lavelle is President of The Sport Source, which has been connecting kids to college opportunities since 1989. For more information on The Sport Source’s Official Athletic College Guides, tools, and resources, go to www.TheSportSource.com, whose College Finder MATCHFIT can also be contacted toll free at 866.829.2606. Facebook.)

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