7 Essential Life Skills for Your New Student
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By Alexandria Caton, Uloop
College is a big step for parents, and an even bigger step for their kids. Anxiety over whether or not your student is ready to cook their own meals, do their own laundry, and keep up with their homework without mom’s nagging is an unavoidable aspect of the college transition.
It’s sometimes jarring for students to be flung out on their own, suddenly responsible for their own eating and sleeping habits — but there are things that you, as parents, can prepare them for before they head off to school. They might moan and groan about it at the time and will be too stubborn to admit that you were right for teaching them these skills, but they will silently thank you once they get to school.
Here are a few skills that your student will need as they start this new chapter of their life.
I cannot stress this one enough — laundry is an essential skill to take into college and one that so many students are totally lost on. So many students don’t know the difference between detergent and fabric softener, or that they need to divide their lights and darks. A few weeks before your student moves away, make them do their own laundry so they can learn how to avoid shrunken pants and pink shirts.
A large part of college is learning how to make your own money and spend it wisely. There’s a lot of temptation in college to blow through a budget in just a few days. With restaurants all around and the freedom to go shopping whenever they want, you are going to want to work out a plan with your student so that they don’t blow through all their savings in one go.
This may not be a pressing issue if your student has a dining hall meal plan, but eventually, they are going to have to learn it. Learning to cook is often a trial and error process that your student will have to go through on their own to learn for themselves, but there are things that you can do to help them in that process. Teach them how to safely use an oven and a stove, give them advice about microwave-safe materials, and help them out with knowing how to tell when meat is fully cooked.
4. Time management
College is all about time management. Professors aren’t going to hold your student’s hand to make sure they did their homework like they may have in high school, and they aren’t going to have you there to plan out their activities. In college, you are free to do what you want with your time outside of class.
If your student doesn’t know how to plan that time and keep a good balance between school and fun, they could quickly lose their grasp on their academics. With friends just minutes away at any given moment, it’s so tempting to slack off, so it’s important that your student knows how to prioritize their time and manage it well.
Safety is a huge issue on college campuses. Sexual assault on college campuses is a significant issue that your student needs to be aware of. While it’s hard to prevent a crisis, there are precautions that can be taken to make sure that your student knows what to do when there is one.
Research your student’s school safety policies with them and have them put the campus patrol number into their phone. Encourage them to be aware of their surroundings while alone at night on campus, and urge them not to be afraid to ask for help in a sticky situation.
The dreaded freshman 15 could be in your new student’s future if they don’t know how to balance their time and moderate their food. It can be hard to fit in a trip to the gym between school, friends, and homework, so encourage your student to find other ways to stay active throughout their day.
Instead of taking car-sharing services, urge them to walk or get a bike. Teach them about choosing healthier options in the dining hall instead of grabbing pizza for every meal. Also take the time to locate the nearest pharmacies and explain how they go about refilling their medication. Have them research the nearest hospital to their campus in the case of an emergency.
This one is especially relevant if your student doesn’t have a car and will need to use public transportation. Your student will likely figure it out as they go along, but it can be helpful to look at the subway map with them before they go so they can have a sense of how to read it. If they have a car, make sure they know how to maintain it!
Your student will learn things as they go along. For most, this is the first time that they will have to rely completely on themselves for everything. They may fumble around a bit at the beginning, but necessity will drive them to figure it out.
In addition to helping them out with these skills, remind them that it’s okay not to know everything at first and that it’s okay to ask for help. Remind them that you are just a phone call away and that no problem is too silly — not even knowing how to change their sheets.
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