The Freshman 15: Tips to keep your college student healthy

Health and Fitness, Latest News, Topics, What You Should Know

Sending your high school graduate to college is a big moment in your family’s life. Your student will face many new challenges as they adjust to being away from home, navigating a new school, managing workloads and being in control of their own health and wellness. To help your student be prepared to take care of themselves, both mentally and physically, check out these 15 essential tips to get your freshman ready for college.

1.  Health care paperwork - when your teen turns 18, their medical information is protected for their privacy (HIPPA) and they are of age to consent to medical treatment.  A durable power of attorney for health care names another person to consent for treatment if the individual is unable to do so. These forms can also allow health care facilities to speak to the students’ parents or designee.

2.  Health care options – most colleges have health clinics, but it may not be open 24 hours a day. Find local urgent care centers and an Emergency Room or check with your insurance to see if telehealth is an option. The law requires that you be seen by a provider in the state you are in – if your student is at an out-of-state school, a telehealth platform like McLarenNow is the perfect choice, with providers covering all 50 states.

3.  Health insurance – order an additional card for your student to carry. Check to be sure your insurance provider will be accepted in the area. Some schools also offer a health plan you can purchase for your student. 

4.  Prescriptions - for students on long-term medications, knowing how and where to fill prescriptions is as important as knowing what medications they are taking and why. If the student takes a controlled substance, such as a medication for ADHD, provide the student with a personal safe to keep these medications locked and safe. 

5.  Glasses or contacts – have backups available for your student. Get duplicates of your teen’s eyeglass or contact prescriptions to order replacements.

6.  Emergency contact information – in addition to providing the school with your contact information, have your student post your contact information in their dorm room. Consider asking your students roommates for their number in case of emergency.

7.  First aid kit – make a kit for your student and be sure to include the following items:  ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen, adhesive bandages, gauze pads, medical tape, alcohol wipes, hand sanitizer, thermometer, ice packs, peroxide, hydrocortisone cream, antibiotic cream, Pedialyte, Imodium and cough/cold medicine.

8.  Mental Health - most schools offer free counseling services to students. Knowing how to access these opportunities is important for your student if they ever need help managing stress, anxiety, homesickness, nervousness or are going through a tough time. 

9.  Sleep habits - young adults typically need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to feel properly refreshed and function at their best the next day.

10.  Water – staying hydrated is essential for health. On average, 9-11 cups of fluid per day are recommended for adults. 

11.  Stay active – college is a great place to take advantage of free access to gyms and fitness centers. Students can also get in their steps walking on campus or encourage them to join an intramural sports team.

12.  Join a club – encourage your student to explore other opportunities for socialization. Most colleges offer clubs for students with similar interests in socializing, athletics, literary or other interests.   

13.  Safe sex – talk to your student about safe sex and be sure they know where to go for reproductive health care on or near campus. Sex and consent are also major issues for college students. Talk to your student about what consent means, how to know if they are in a risky position and tactics for staying safe.  

14.  Drinking – while drinking under the age of 21 is illegal in the US, that isn’t always the reality on college campuses. Talk to your student about the dangers of binge drinking and remind them underage drinking is also linked unintentional injuries, violence, school performance problems and other risky behaviors.

15.  The Freshman 15 – talk to your student about healthy nutrition to avoid weight gain their first year at college. While the “freshman 15” can be worrisome for a new college student, the average weight gain is less than 5 pounds. Encourage your student to make healthy choices, stay active and keep healthy snacks available.