10 Things Kids Should Know Before Leaving for College

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Your teen has survived testing, essays, applications and the waiting game. Now it’s time to teach your college-bound child some important life skills before he heads out to explore the world on his own. Here are 10 things kids should know before they take off—and summer is the perfect time to teach them!

  1. How to do laundry. Wash light and dark clothes separately, never put “dry clean only” clothing in a regular washing machine, etc.

  2. How to cook. Start with basics: how to scramble eggs, boil pasta and bake pizza in the oven (YouTube is an amazing resource). Work up to assembling casseroles and slow-cooker meals if your student won’t be on a campus meal plan.

  3. How to use public transportation. Most students won’t have a car the first year. Check with the college to find out how students get around; search the web for local transportation options and schedules.

  4. How to budget money. Keep track of income and spending in a small notebook or Excel spreadsheet. Be realistic about spending and find income-earning opportunities as needed. Teach kids how to balance a checkbook.

  5. The difference between a credit card and a debit card. Explain that credit card purchases accrue interest on items paid for at a later date. Help them understand the dangers of unnecessary debt.

  6. How to communicate with doctors and medical staff. Once kids turn 18, they can (and are expected to) make their own medical appointments and decisions. This is often a shocking reality for parents, who usually handle a child’s medical needs up to this point. Equip your student with family insurance information and teach him how to refill a prescription. Find a pharmacy near campus that accepts your insurance, so no one is scrambling at the last minute.

  7. What an advance directive is. This is also a good time to discuss what you would want done in the event of a life-threatening accident. Discuss what an advance directive is, a living will and durable power of attorney. It’s a heavy, but necessary, discussion to have as a family.

  8. How to manage time. Google calendar is a great on-the-go option that color-codes activities so you can see where there might be free blocks of time. Don’t forget to plan for sleep!

  9. How to deal with people. There is an art to bringing up grievances and respectfully disagreeing with people such as authority figures and roommates. You don’t have to be a doormat when arguing a case with a professor, doctor or boss, but it’s also not necessary to always go for “the win.”

  10. How to change a tire and check oil. When it’s time for students to have a car at school, always have a spare tire, a jack, flashlight and gloves in the vehicle. Consider registering for AAA—they can always help in a parent’s absence.

Now that you’ve covered important basics, relax and enjoy while your teen is away at college.

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Kerrie McLoughlin is the seasoned homeschooling mom of 5 and author of The Tater Tot Casserole Cookbook.

For more great college prep tips, read “15 Essential Items Missing from Your Teen’s College Packing List.”

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