The college experience can be an idyllic time in a young person’s life, one that should be regarded with a great deal of happiness and joy.
Going away to college is the first time most kids are on their own and truly independent. They have the opportunity to interact with – and learn from – world-renowned professors and study everything from film and chemistry to ancient Greek mythology and macro economics while deciding on a major. They live in communities with people from different cities, states and countries, forging lifelong friendships. Their world is simultaneously big and small, filled with seemingly endless possibilities. However, as with most communities, it’s not quite a utopia and isn’t without its challenges.
College students bring the comforts of home with them to arrange their new lives at school, including televisions, iPods, tablets, laptops, gaming stations and bikes – easily accessible valuables that can create temptation for people with “sticky fingers.” And, occasionally, accidents will happen or things go “missing.”
Theft is not the only peril, however, college-bound young adults may face. According to the National Fire Protection Association, during the five-year period from 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 3,806 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and barracks. These fires resulted in an annual average of $9.4 million in personal property damage.
Bottom line: New-found college independence comes with the responsibility of being an adult.
Here are some tips to help protect belongings when kids are on their own.
· Parents should check their homeowners’ insurance policy to ensure belongings are covered. Companies like Mercury Insurance offer policies that extend personal property coverage for insureds while away from the insured residence. Coverages vary and are usually expressed as a percentage of the personal property coverage on the homeowners’ policy.
· Create an inventory and calculate the value of all possessions taken to school. This will help establish an accurate record, as well as help parents determine whether they have sufficient coverage if a claim needs to be filed.
· Keep the door locked whenever students leave their rooms or houses.
· Purchase locks to attach to larger items – like televisions and computers – and fasten them to stable fixtures in the room so they don’t accidentally “grow legs.” A small safe for valuable documents (e.g., passport, birth certificate, social security card, etc.) and jewelry also helps to keep belongings secure.
· Consider purchasing renter’s insurance if you don’t plan to return home when school’s not in session, if you live off-campus or you’re financially independent from your parents. Depending on each circumstance, you may not be considered for coverage under your parents’ policy if something gets lost, damaged or stolen. Renter’s insurance is inexpensive (usually less than $200/year) and will cover your personal property.
· If students decide not to bring a car to school and leave it at their parents’ house it should remain on their policy. Even though they aren’t driving it regularly while they’re away, the car may still be at risk for collision or theft. And if students are going to a school more than 100 miles away from home, parents may even qualify for a discount on their policy.
· Get the student discount! Just like high school, college students may be eligible for a good student discount. Mercury Insurance, for example, provides a discount to students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 and above while they attend college, plus they may qualify for additional discounts, too.
Every situation is unique and there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution for insurance. Be sure to talk to a local insurance agent to see what coverage extends to you. College is a life changing experience and I wish you all – students and parents – the best of luck in the future.