We send our students off to college to get an education. We know that, in addition to their academic pursuits, they will be learning about life and the “real world”. So why should we need to teach them anything before they head out the door? Because there are some skills that will help them survive on their own as they navigate the world of college. Here are eight skills that will help your student succeed in “College 101”.
Know how to do laundry
As simplistic as it sounds, many students arrive at college never having had to do any laundry. Yes, some students have been responsible for their own laundry for years, but if your college student isn’t one of them, give him a lesson before he heads out the door. The proverbial joke about the college student with lots of pink clothes because he didn’t know how to separate the reds from the whites is not necessarily an exaggeration. Spend a few minutes making sure he knows how to separate colors, how to choose the correct temperature, how much detergent or fabric softener or bleach to add. It might even mean he doesn’t need to bring all of his dirty laundry home on every visit!
Know how to cook a few simple items
Many students will eat all of their meals in student dining halls. College food has improved vastly since many of us attended college and attempted to determine exactly what was in the “mystery meat”. But there may be occasions when your college student will want a break from the standard college fare. Or perhaps your student has opted to live in an apartment – either on or off campus. Sure, there are lots of frozen and prepared meals available, but a few basic kitchen skills are helpful. And students often enjoy some of the foods they remember from home. Make sure your student has a few skills – and perhaps a few basic recipes from home.
Know a little about good nutrition
You don’t need to give your student a full course on healthy eating, but some basic guidelines may be helpful. Students may consider pizza one of the basic food groups, but at some point they may want to branch out. Understanding just a bit about healthy foods and a balanced diet may help them avoid the infamous “freshman 15” and may help them when they are faced with the wide array of offerings in their dining hall.
Know how to balance a checkbook
Your student may have been managing his money for years. Most students have had jobs throughout high school, have been receiving paychecks, and may have had a checking account. Other students may be establishing their first checking account as they head off to college. Make sure that your student knows how to balance a checkbook and knows the importance of balancing it. You may also want to make sure that he knows how to check his balance and pay bills on line since students are often more comfortable with electronic banking. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your student will balance the checkbook religiously every month, but it will help him keep track of his bottom line.
Know the advantages – and dangers – of credit cards
Many students have credit cards before they head off to school. Many students get their first credit card (and second and third) while they are in college. Having a credit card can be a wonderful way to begin to establish a credit history, and a beneficial thing to have in an emergency. But credit cards can be dangerous, and many students graduate from college with significant credit card debt. Make sure that you discuss credit with your student. Make sure that he understands the importance of paying the credit card bill each month and that he understands APR, bill paying deadlines, credit card policies.
Know how to manage a simple budget
Help your student understand the process of establishing a simple budget to keep track of his income and expenses. Having a spending plan will help him to think carefully about what he can afford to do and what he may have to reconsider. Even though money may be tight, he will feel more in control.
Know how to use e-mail in a professional manner
Today’s college students use the internet constantly. They use electronic means of communicating every day. They IM, tweet, Skype, e-mail, post on Facebook walls, and text message. But for many students, the idea of using e-mail as a professional means of communication may be new. Most students use electronic means of communication informally. Help your student understand the importance of using correct grammar, checking spelling, beginning with an appropriate greeting (not “Hey Prof!”), and avoiding “textspeak” when they send e-mails to faculty members or use e-mail for more formal communication with employers or potential internship supervisors. It will help to set your student apart from the crowd.
Know how to manage time efficiently
Perhaps the most important skill for college students is efficient time management. Throughout the high school years, your student’s time was probably very structured. The bell rang during the day to tell your student when to move from class to class. He left school and may have gone to a structured athletic practice or job or other organized activity. He may have had a curfew at night. He attended family, church, community or other organized activities. At college, students have a great deal of free time, and how they use and structure that time can make the difference between a student who struggles and one who succeeds. Help your student think about how to break big projects into manageable pieces, how to plan ahead, how to use a calendar or day planner to keep track of assignments and commitments. This may be the biggest advantage and success tool that you will give him.
There are certainly many other life skills that your student may need and will learn while at college. However, if she sets out with a basic knowledge of these eight skills, she will have a definite head start on her college success.