An essential summer checklist for anyone starting college in the fall

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An essential summer checklist for anyone starting college in the fall

Congratulations! You (or your college-bound child) received the coveted college admissions letter. But that doesn’t mean the work of getting into college is over. Between now and the first day of classes, there’s still plenty of paperwork and other requirements to handle, along with several financial details to wrap up before any freshman hits the quad.

These aren’t just pesky details, warned Patrick O’Connor, assistant dean of college counseling at Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and an Ambassador Fellow to the U.S. Dept. of Education. Ignoring follow-up questions or failing to file a required form can end up disqualifying an admitted student before school even starts.

“It’s a phenomenon counselors refer to as summer melt,” O'Connor said.

According to a report from the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University found the rates of so-called summer melt are estimated to range from 10% to 40% of college bound students.

“After students receive acceptance letters and make their springtime decisions to attend a particular college, a number of tasks still must be completed for students to successfully matriculate,” it says in the report. “Many of these tasks may be challenging for students who no longer have access to high school counselors, who may not be familiar with support resources available at their intended college, and whose families may lack experience with the college-going process.”

Why college-bound students melt in summer

Summer melt often happens because students are transitioning into a new phase of life with new responsibilities — a lot for any 17- or 18-year-old. The problem is particularly common with first-generation college students who don’t have parents or family members familiar with the entire process of going to college.

To help avoid your own summer melt, review (and do) the 12 items on this checklist.

1. Verify financial information

An increasing number of schools are moving to verify financial information beyond what students submitted with their financial aid applications. This can include letters from a parent’s employer, proof that a single parent doesn’t get financial help from a divorced spouse, bank statements or other information. Keep an eye out for any of these requests and make sure you complete them right away.

2. Confirm financial aid information

Reread any financial aid offers to make sure you understand what’s required, then read it again, O’Connor advised. There may be additional paperwork to file for a work-study program or to process student loans, grants or scholarship awards. Contact the school to make sure everything has been finalized or to find out what else needs to happen.

A potential benefit in doing this is that additional financial aid money may be available, if other admitted students with aid offers turned the school down.

3. Note any economic changes

If your family’s financial situation changed between the time the student applied and now, contact the college to find out if additional aid might be available. These situations can include financial information that students can include on financial aid applications, such as having a grandparent move in with the family. It also can include things such as a parent changing or losing a job, or some other financial hurdle.

4. Figure out your gap financing plan

Gap financing is when you take what the college charges and subtract the amount of scholarships, grants, family contributions and federal student loans. This is often is characterized as unsubsidized loans in financial aid documents, which means it’s up to the student and their family to find the money for the remaining tuition.

Once you know the amount, if any, it's time to start consider your options. If you're going for a private student loan, it's important to know that applying can be a lengthy process, so you'll want to start pursuing those options right away.

5. Contact roommates

The school usually communicates roommate contact information during the summer, giving students a chance to introduce themselves and figure out living arrangements and communal items, such as which roommate might bring a mini-fridge or television.

6. Save the date for freshman orientation

Some colleges make this mandatory for new students so you won't want to miss it. It's good to have it noted in your calendar so you don't plan a vacation to your favorite beach at the same time.

7. Get dorm insurance

If you're going to live in on-campus housing, your parents homeowners insurance likely covers theft, loss or damage to property you have with you at college; it's a good idea to check coverage for details.

You also can find separate policies, including some that cover only electronics, as well as individual dorm insurance policies, which can preserve any claim limits on homeowner’s coverage. If you live off-campus, this won't be the case and you'll need renters insurance.

8. Pay your deposits

Typically, colleges and universities require non-refundable deposits to hold your spot. But there's also housing deposits and meal plan deposits. Check with your school to see what's required.

9. Know your tuition payment deadlines

Depending on school policies, tuition may be due at the beginning of the semester or in a series of equal payments throughout the year. Check and see what the schedule is and make sure you’ll have the cash or loan proceeds to pay on time. Otherwise, you may probably won't be eligible to register for classes.

Families still looking to borrow to cover a financial gap usually have extra time to arrange loans if they have enough money to cover the first semester payments.

10. Bank accounts

If you’ll be sending money to your student, figure out how you’ll deliver the cash. This can be through an online bank account linked to your own checking account, or applications such as Google Wallet or PayPal. A joint account can allow a parent to monitor their student’s financial activity at school.

11. Transportation

If you’re student is traveling to school, reserve transportation such as airport car service or taxis, as well as any required flights. Schools in small towns or remote locations may have a limited number of providers available on the school’s move-in day so it's beneficial to book ahead.

12. Check your email on the reg

Make sure to keep a close eye on email accounts, specifically the one you gave your future school. This includes checking junk or spam folders. And don't assume that just because you don’t hear anything that everything is set. If there are questions about financial aid, final transcripts from high school, required paperwork or any other issue, contact the college and confirm everything is set to start in the fall.

For those students who’ve been waitlisted by one or more colleges, you need to stay in contact with those schools. Students can be admitted off the waitlist as late as August.

College is expensive. Here are the schools you can attend for free.

This article originally appeared on Experian.

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