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Friday, August 16, 2013

Tips for Parents Sending Kids to College

Every time we took the kids to college, the car was so packed that we didn't have room for even an extra stick of gum.  This was because we had spent the two prior weeks at Target, IKEA and Kohls.  

We made dozens of trips to Chicago, New York and Boston.  Over the years I co-signed for 10 years of apartment leases, three credit cards and who knows what else.  I wiped away my wife's tears every time we left the kids at school.  (It got only a little easier as the years went by.)  And I lost count of the health insurance cards I had to mail out.

We argued with landlords for a full return of security deposits.  We sent out copies of birth certificates and social security cards for jobs.  We had to report to the police the serial numbers of the stolen TV and make sure the State Department had the number of the stolen passport.

It all worked out just fine.  But there are a few things I would have done differently.  So please take a minute or so to keep reading and maybe you'll see something you hadn't thought of.


Some tips for parents

1.  Make sure you have extra tissues in the car for the tears.
2.  Take pictures of the apartment or dorm room before anybody moves in.
3.  Get your own copy of the lease, with the signatures of every lessee and all the co-signers.  (I can guarantee you won't be able to easily find it if you don't have your own copy.)
4.  Save the receipts for all the electronics and other expensive stuff.
5.  Make sure you have a copy of the health insurance cards, whether your child is on your plan or a school plan. (Wallets and purses get lost or stolen.)
6.  Make copies of birth certificates, passports, immunization records, important medical records and credit cards.
7.  Take pictures of the dorm room or apartment after the kids move out (so you can prove it was in good shape).
8.  Record the location of the stuff your child will need to get a job, like original letters of recommendation, key projects, and business cards collected over the years at school.  You have no idea how hard it is to find a piece of paper or a business card hiding in a garage or basement full of cryptically labeled boxes.
9.  Make sure you get a copy of the gym membership your scholar signed up for.  (In the fine print you may see that the only way to cancel is to send a certified letter to a special address.)

Events at college inspired SafelyFiled

In our patent application, we were required to describe some real-life uses for SafelyFiled and my family's experiences with the children's moves to and from school were a part of the application.  Unfortunately, there was no SafelyFiled back when my kids were in college and I can remember spending quite a bit of time filing the documents mentioned above and then, when I needed them, trying to remember where I had filed them. 

With the kids being so far away, we also had to send some sensitive documents via email - something that I would never do again.  Sending an email is like sending a postcard - not too secure.  But now with SafelyFiled, your kids can securely access their own documents (stored in your account) and maybe you won't get a call from the kids, like I did, at 11 at night saying they needed copies of their birth certificates for job applications by 9 the next morning.

The pre-move in and post-move out pictures of the apartments can be sent into SafelyFiled, and with the audit trail time stamp, there's proof of when the pictures were uploaded. (That really helps when talking to a landlord.)  But what you might find the most valuable is your peace of mind when you know you have a way to quickly transmit medical records in the middle of the night to a hospital or emergency clinic.  It's important for a treating physician to know about allergies, medical conditions and medications.

And when they come back

When my daughter was moving back from New York, she had a cache of business cards and original letters of recommendation that we put in a special place, a place that we would never forget, so we could find them while she was applying for a job.  I wish I had just taken a picture of that special place and saved the picture with an attached note.  We found the cards and the letters 18 months after she moved back, in a nightstand we had shoved in a corner of the basement because we didn't need it in her old bedroom. 

And that health club - every month when I opened my credit card bill, I saw that health club charge.  I think I once saw it laughing at me.  I tried to cancel with the credit card company, but they refused to do so, saying I had to send that stupid cancellation letter to that stupid secret address.  And every month I vowed that the next day my daughter and I would search for the contract.  Of course we forgot.  I don't want to admit how long this went on,  but we eventually did get the cancellation to stick.

Cancelling three months earlier would have more than paid for two years of SafelyFiled.

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