What to Bring to College: 10 Critical Papers and Documents

What to Bring to College: 10 Critical Papers and Documents

By Juliann Scholl

Published on August 18, 2021

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Figuring out what to bring to college can be overwhelming for any new student. Typical items might include clothes, bedding, and toiletries. However, students should also add 10 important types of papers and documents to their packing list.

Necessary records include government-issued photo identification (ID), bank information, health and immunization records, and other legal documents. The information contained in these items may be essential for various aspects of college life — especially during the first few weeks.

Keeping copies of these records can save time and hassle. A parent or guardian should also maintain copies of these documents.

1. Driver's License or Other Photo ID

Students new to campus must show an official photo ID, such as a driver's license or state-issued identification card. Students can obtain either ID by contacting their state's department of transportation or bureau of motor vehicles.

Other acceptable forms of identification include a tribal ID card or military common access card or identification card. International students can also use their Permanent Resident Card or a passport.

2. Social Security Card

The United States Social Security Administration issues Social Security cards. People generally need this to get a job or access other government services. This card also proves essential when moving to a new state or acquiring an official photo ID.

Students can leave their original Social Security card with their parents or guardians, but they need at least a photocopy to keep with them while on campus.

3. Birth Certificate

An original birth certificate (or a photocopy) provides legitimate proof of identity. Students who lack an identifying document can use their birth certificate to get or replace a driver's license, replace a Social Security card, or travel outside the country. Some colleges and universities might require students to produce this document before registering for classes.

4. Medical and Immunization Records

Because students on a college campus typically occupy communal areas and classrooms, they may be more likely to spread infections. For this reason, many postsecondary institutions require students to show proof of immunization against certain diseases, such as hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps, and rubella.

Additionally, schools increasingly require vaccination against COVID-19. Regardless of specific health regulations, students should supply their campus health center with copies of their medical records, including any prescriptions they take.

5. Health Insurance Card

A health insurance card is essential when seeking medical care or buying prescription medication. Students should make sure that healthcare facilities in their location accept their insurance plan. Students might consider carrying their insurance card in their wallet or purse in case they face a medical emergency away from home.

6. HIPAA Release Form

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) prohibits healthcare providers from disclosing patient health information without a patient's knowledge or consent. By signing a HIPAA release form, students enable their parents or guardians to access information about their medical care. In case of an emergency, parents can authorize necessary treatment on the patient's behalf or handle insurance claims.

7. Official School Documents

When they arrive on campus, students should bring acceptance letters, ACT or SAT scores, financial aid or scholarship award notifications, high school transcripts, and other letters or correspondence with the institution. International students should keep their Form I-20, which proves that they can study in the United States.

8. Banking Information

Students should bring their checkbooks and records associated with their bank accounts, including bank statements. This information can come in handy when paying bills, balancing a checking account, or signing up for utilities and other services. Parents or guardians might consider keeping copies of this information in case of loss or theft.

9. List of Key Contacts and Addresses

Students cannot always anticipate when someone might need to contact them or get in touch with someone else on their behalf. Keeping a list of emergency contacts with names, phone numbers, and addresses can prove beneficial in a variety of circumstances. Students should also keep a written record of their current address, phone number, email, and other contact information.

10. Photocopies of Credit/Debit Cards

Students should make a photocopy or digital copy of all their debit and credit cards and keep these duplicates in a secure place. As always, when losing a debit or credit card, students should contact their card-issuing bank as soon as possible to report it stolen or missing.

Frequently Asked Questions About What to Bring to College

How can I keep my documents safe while at college?

One of the best ways to prevent theft is keeping your residence hall room locked when you leave — even if only for a moment. Students sharing a room with someone else can keep their documents in a locked filing cabinet.

What should I do if I forget to bring an important document to campus?

Even with the best planning, some students might forget to bring an essential document. Retrieving it personally or having a parent or guardian bring it to school might prove safer than mailing it.

Do I need to bring a COVID-19 vaccination card?

Many postsecondary institutions require that students show proof of immunization against COVID-19. People who are completely vaccinated should keep their vaccination card in a safe place wherever they live and keep a photocopy of the card in a separate location.

What should I do if I lose an important document while at school?

Students can plan for this possibility ahead of time by maintaining photocopies or digital copies of important documents. Nevertheless, if a document should go missing, they should contact the organization or government agency that provided the record and request a replacement copy.

Feature Image: fizkes / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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