By Mrs. B

What you need to know when your OCONUS college kid goes stateside
(Photo: DVIDS)

While living OCONUS has some great perks, it can have it’s challenging moments. One of those is often for families who have to send their new high school graduate back to the States for college. While it can be an overwhelming and intimidating process, if you plan ahead it can help it to go smoothly.

Living Arrangements 

Your college kid is going to need a place stay, generally either in a dorm or an apartment; however there are a few things you may not think about ahead of time. Dorms can end up being expensive and have requirements to purchase large meal cards. Most campuses have an amount that is required for on-campus & off-campus students; this is a required fee.

Dorms usually close for the holidays including Thanksgiving and Christmas break. Some students can pay a fee to stay in an open dorm, but that requires them moving to another dorm room during that time. Our son stayed with local friends for Thanksgiving and he came back to visit us for Christmas.

Stuff, stuff, and more stuff

You can only fit so much stuff in a few suitcases… so you need to think about what they need. When leaving from an OCONUS location, your child is allowed to ship up to 350 lbs., this can be set up through TMO. You can also mail back up to 350 lbs. and get reimbursed as well. If you chose to do this, know that the 350 lbs will come off your HHG’s weight when you PCS from the OCONUS location. We chose to mail back a few boxes, which cost $250, and not get reimbursed so that we could keep the weight for our HHG’s when we moved. We also just bought him many of the basics when we took him to college. (Keep in mind these expenses so that you can budget for them ahead of time.)

Getting to college

The military will pay for military dependent to fly to the States for college; however, if you want to go along, you’ll have to foot your ticket. We decided to accompany our son and flew Space-A with him instead. This also allowed us to have the military fly him back for free to visit us in December–more on that in a bit.

Medical options

Get a supply of any prescriptions for your child before leaving your OCONUS location. They normally give a 3-month supply during the transition time. Some colleges require tests and vaccines to be done before attending, such as TB, so check on that. Just before leaving, call TRICARE and change your child’s coverage to their new location and find out who their new PCM is. After arriving at their location go to their PCM, dentist, optometrist, and any other needed doctors and fill out the new patient forms so they are ready to go in case they need them. This will also give you addresses and contact numbers to leave with your child.

Important documents

Make sure to hand-carry all important documents like transcripts and proof of vaccines/TB tests as you normally have to turn these in at mandatory orientations. Also don’t forget to give your child the documents they will need to live on their own and away from home, like their Social Security card. It’s also a good idea to get their military ID card renewed so it’ll be good for several more years as well. The ID card is much easier to renew with the Sponsor present as well, and there may not be a base near your child’s college.


We have a MagicJack phone number that is local for the state our son resides in. This is our contact number in case we need to be reached by the school or his doctors. (We have it as an app on our phone so it’s available to us all the time.) Before you get your child set up with a stateside cell phone, make sure it has good coverage in their area! Generally the ones with kiosks on the campus will provide good coverage and have easy to access customer service.

Showing you care

I was surprised to find out at the college orientation that most students don’t receive care packages from their family. I just assumed this is something you do… but apparently it’s not in the civilian world. For the past two years we’ve sent monthly care packages with treats from were we live, letters from siblings, photos, and other fun stuff. (I know his roommates have benefited from us sending all these goodies as well.)

Seeing your college kid again

For those who are stationed OCONUS, the military will pay to fly your college kid back to see you once a year! It’s an amazing perk, and we’ve been using it for the past several years. You do have to make sure that you qualify and fit the guidelines. You can find out more about the program here.

If you’d like to fly your college student home more than once a year, check out your local ITT/RTT for their military rates. We’ve been able to fly our son to Germany round trip for as little as $500, so it’s worth seeing what they can offer. Don’t forget you can also use Space-A to get back to the States to visit them as well! Keep all your options open and figure out what works best for your family.

Sending your college kid stateside from an OCONUS location can be both easier and harder than you can imagine. Proper planning will ensure an easy transition and make it easier for you to return to your OCONUS station feeling comfortable.