Medical Forms and Back-to-School Physicals

Doctor applying a wooden tongue depressor to a young girl's tongue while looking in her mouth
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School physicals are a chore on many parents' back-to-school to-do lists. But simply making a doctor appointment and showing up is not likely enough. Typically there is paperwork that needs to be obtained by the parent, filled out by the doctor and sent in either by the parent or doctor's office. And the requirements for back-to-school medical forms will vary from grade to grade and state to state. 

Not only does this information vary from state to state and district-to-district, but it will also be different for private versus public schools. Additionally, the requirements for medical evaluations are based on your child’s grade, and typically certain vaccinations are required at specific ages. And it makes a difference whether your child plays sports. While all schools require vaccinations (or exemptions from vaccinations), some may not require a physical unless a child is involved in sports.

Update: November 2022

On October 20, 2022, the Center for Disease Control's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to add COVID-19 vaccination to the childhood immunization schedule. While the CDC makes vaccine recommendations, each state will determine which ones are required for school entry. The updated schedule is set to be released in early 2023.

Read on for some of the questions you may want to ask in order to ensure that you get all the right information about back-to-school physicals.

Questions to Ask the School

  • What vaccinations does my child need for his or her current grade?
  • What vaccinations will he or she need in upcoming years?
  • Is a physical examination required this year? Every year? How often?
  • Does he or she need a physical exam to participate in sports or physical education class?
  • What form do I need the doctor to fill out as proof of the vaccinations and/or physical? Where can I get that form? 
  • How recent does a physical examination have to be to fulfill the school's requirements? Can the doctor fill out the form based on a previous exam?
  • Are any other physician-signed forms needed for my child, e.g., for sick days, medicines to be administered during the school day or excuses from physical activity?
  • What is the policy for excused absences due to illness? Is a doctor’s note required? If a special form is needed, where can I obtain that?
  • If forms can be faxed or mailed directly from the doctor's office, to where and to whom?

If your child has any medical conditions that require management during the school day, additional medical forms may be required. This could include food allergies, ADHD, asthma, diabetes, etc. Ask both the school and the doctor about what is needed for any specific medical condition your child has.

Questions to Ask the Doctor’s Office Staff

  • Are there any fees for faxing or filling out forms? (Some may charge fees when filling out a form is not part of a physical exam).
  • Do you have the school district’s medical forms at your office?

Why You Should Schedule Back-to-School Physical Exams Early

The month before school starts can be very busy in pediatric practices as many families schedule routine physical exams—both because they are required for school and because they are needed yearly. Don’t wait too long to call for an appointment. Physicals take a longer block of time than sick visits, and slots will fill up fast,

The doctor could require lab work or other medical tests before signing the physical exam form. So if you schedule too close to the start of school, you could not have time for the tests.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACIP Immunization Schedule Vote.

By Laureen Miles Brunelli
Laureen Miles Brunelli is an experienced online writer and editor, specializing in content for parents who work at home.