Make sure you are covered before you return to campus, not after

By Scott Van Voorhis on July 23rd, 2012

Yes, there is something that's even worse than graduating college with a crushing load of student-loan debt.

And that's hobbling across the stage to collect your diploma, buried under hundreds of thousands of dollar in medical debt, yours or even worse, someone else's.

College can be a time for fun and intellectual exploration, book learning and crazy pranks. But students and their parents also need to make sure they are protected against the potential risks college can bringl, from a fraternity stunt gone awry to winding up seriously ill far from home.

Here are some of the basic issues to consider:

  • Do you have the right medical coverage? Some universities offer inexpensive plans, but they may be capped at a certain amount, say $100,000. That ounds like a lot, but not if you break multiple bones after leaping off the roof of your frat house or wind up with cancer. Staying on your parents' plan is also an option until you are 26, but if the network of doctors is in Boston and you are in school in San Diego, you could have problems. If you are relatively healthy, you might be best off just buying your own plan. Coverage can run as little as $100 a month.
  • What happens if someone swipes your gadgets? If the guy down the hall makes off with your laptop, iPad and other devices, you could be out thousands of dollars. If your parents have homeowners insurance, you could collect up to 10 percent of the amount allotted for the loss of personal property. But you may want to make sure laptops and other electronics are fully covered. Another option, if you are living off campus in an apartment, is taking out renters' insurance, which can be obtained for $200 to $300 a year.
  • Don't cheap out on your car insurance: It might come in handy if you end up crashing your car and all your buddies are along for the ride. If you have low limits for liability, you may be sued for the cost of their injuries. If you lend out your car and a friend wrecks it, you may find that your coverage is considerably lower.
  • Consider personal liability insurance: For another $250 to $300 a year, mom and dad can cover the whole family with up to a $1 million in coverage, including college students. That might just come in handy if a well-intentioned prank backfires badly. I mean, who knew that statue of the university's founder would collapse when you tried to crown him with a cowboy hat?

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