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Is your child among the 21.8 million students heading back to college any day now? If so, you're probably busy helping them gather all the things they need for life away from home.

One of the things you'll want to discuss with them before they go back to college is how to keep their car and their belongings safe and protected. Here are some answers to a few of the most common questions that parent's of college students have.

Are my child's belongings covered by my homeowners policy when she goes back to college?

That's a great question since most universities now require freshman to have laptops. That, along with the fact that students also often bring along expensive items like bikes and TV's, means it can be pretty pricey to replace damaged or stolen items.

The good news is that most insurers' homeowners policies are designed to cover your child if something is stolen or destroyed. At Erie Insurance, full-time students under the age of 24 are automatically covered under their parents' policy. Part-time students and/or students who are 24 and older may need to take out a renters insurance policy to protect themselves an their belongings.

Does insurance coverage differ if my child is living in a dorm versus an apartment?

Your child's personal property is generally covered under your homeowners policy if they're away from home. However, when students choose to live in an apartment, they should consider purchasing a separate renters insurance policy. That's because renters insurance often also provides for additional living expenses if an apartment becomes uninhabitable because of something like a fire. (It's also worth reviewing some of the other reasons why renters insurance is worth considering.)

What steps can my child take to safeguard her belongings?

It's a good idea to talk with your child about this since more than 20.400 burglaries were reported on U.S. campuses in 2012. In addition to taking personal safety precautions, your  child will also want to keep these tips in mind.

    -Always lock doors. Sounds obvious, but most dorm thefts occur during the day.
    -Fireproof things. Don't leave candles, cigarettes and grills-the most common causes of fires-untended. To be extra safe, consider flameless candles, indoor grills and simply kicking the habit.
    -Engrave electronics. Engravings make it easier for police to track down stolen computers, televisions and iPods.
    -Create a home inventory. It is much easier to submit a claim if you save all receipts from major purchases, make a detailed list of everything of value in our home, and photograph or videotape 
      your possessions. To make the process a cinch, the Insurance Information Institute offers free online home inventory software at Know Your Stuff.
    -Safeguard pricier items-or just leave them at home. Bikes, jewelry, watches, and laptops are some of the biggest targets of theft. So be sure to lock them up or leave them at a trusted residence
      that doesn't have a high level of foot traffic.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most insurers limit how much they will pay for theft of any one item (at Erie Insurance, the limit is $3,000). So, if a prized possession is worth more, make sure to take out an additional personal inland marine rider (also known as a "floater") on the policy. 

    -Consider adding identity coverage to your policy. Young people are more likely to experience identity theft due to the extra time they log on the internet. (This is especially true if they use 
       unsecured Wi-Fi.) Check with your insurer about adding this valuable coverage to your policy. (At Erie Insurance, it's automatically included in many policies. Talk with an Erie Insurance 
       Agent to learn more about identity recovery coverage.)

Do I need to make any adjustments to my child's auto coverage if she's away at school?

Because you'll have one less driver living at home when your son or daughter goes off to college, our household might get a discount if the child doesn't take the car to college.* If your child does take a set of wheels, review your coverage to make sure he or she is properly insured. (This is especially important if your child is attending school in another city or state.)

Are college kids eligible for any discounts?

This is an important question to ask your insurance agent. Erie Insurance has a college student auto discount that applies to young, unmarried, full-time college students who spend most of the year away from home without the use of a vehicle. If you're renting and buy your car insurance and your renters insurance together from ERIE, you may be eligible for a multi-policy discount.* Ask an Erie Insurance Agent if you're eligible for this type of discount.

*Discounts subject to eligibility and applicable rates and rules.


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