Kids headed off to college? Congratulations!

But before they go, make sure that they are properly insured against unexpected surprises.

“College campuses are kind of their own risk management cram course,” says Lynne McChristian, Florida spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute. “You’ve got theft, drunken driving, drugs and students who leave windows open and cars unlocked.”

Covering kids while away at school typically requires a mix of their parents’ policies and their own, often first-time, coverage.

“Most people don’t know how it works,” McChristian says.

Campus Dorm: A Home Away With Home Insurance

Most students who live in a dormitory are allowed to remain on their parents’ home insurance policy, which typically classifies their dorm-room belongings as “personal property, located off premises.”

Check your home policy to see if there is a deductible for off-premise claims. Most home policies limit claims to up to 10 percent for off-premises personal property claims, meaning you would only collect $1,000 for losing $10,000 in a dorm theft. A separate renter’s policy is an inexpensive way to beef up your coverage.

Off-Campus Dwellers Need Separate Insurance

Most insurance companies consider off-campus rentals to be permanent residences and thus ineligible for content loss or liability coverage under Mom and Dad’s policy. Protecting your stuff and liability in your off-campus dwelling will likely require a renter’s policy.

“It’s affordable protection,” says McChristian. “You can usually get renter’s insurance for as little as $15 a month, and because it’s an annual policy, it protects your property year-round, no matter where it is. If you travel to Europe and your laptop is stolen, it would be covered, minus the deductible.”

Mom and Dad can breathe a sigh of relief as well.

“Also, another real good reason that parents would want their children to have the separate policy is that otherwise the parents may be held liable. That’s why parents worry when young people drive the family car,” McChristian said.

Make the Right Turns on Car Insurance

Keeping a set of wheels under your college student while away from home presents a few challenges.

Parents who want to keep their student on their auto policy often save money by doing so.

“Insurance follows the car,” says McChristian. “One way for parents to lower the cost of insurance is to assign the young driver to the oldest car, not the most expensive car.”

It will cost more to turn the title over and have your student insure their ride in their own name.

“Companies give kids policy breaks for a clean record, good grade average and completing a driver’s training course,” she says. “And should they find they don’t need their car on campus, they can save money by being listed as an ‘occasional driver.’”

Don’t Leave Health Insurance Behind

Parents breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Affordable Care Act of 2010 parents’ health insurance to college students.

“Because of the Affordable Care Act, students are able to remain on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26, even if they are married or have insurance through their employer,” McChristian explains. “One of the benefits of that ACA benefit is you have to remain enrolled in school.”

Jay MacDonald