Articles College

10 Things Kids Should Know Before Heading to College This Fall

By Kerrie McLoughlin

Your family has survived the testing, the essays, the applications and the waiting game. Now it’s time to teach your college-bound children some important skills before they head out of the house and explore the world on their own. Here are some basic things I’ll be working on with my own college-bound teens, and summer is the perfect time to do it!

1 | How to wash clothes Wash light and dark clothes separately. Put a set of clothing in the washer, add detergent based on product recommendations and wash everything on warm just to be safe. Never put “dry clean only” clothing in a regular washing machine. Once clothes are washed, put them in the dryer on a medium temperature for about 40 minutes or as long as a specific setting runs.

2 | How to cook a decent meal to save time and money Start with basics like how to scramble eggs, boil pasta and bake pizza in the oven (Recipes.com and YouTube are amazing teachers!). Work your way up to assembling casseroles and putting together slow cooker meals.

3| How to change a tire (and other car maintenance) Always have a spare tire in the vehicle you drive, as well as a jack, flashlight, rain poncho and gloves. Parents, you should help teach this one a few times until the college-bound young adult gets the hang of it. Also, if there is a plan in place with AAA, they are always happy to come out and help or supervise.

4 | to budget money Track your income and spending in a small notebook or Excel spreadsheet, so you can be realistic about how much you’re spending. If you know something is coming up that you’ll need money for, make a note about it and save in other ways or figure out income-earning opportunities.

5 | How to manage money and the difference between a credit card and a debit card A debit card needs a PIN because money comes from a bank account right away. A credit card needs a signature because you’re agreeing to pay interest and anything you owe at a later date. Kids, make sure you know how to balance a checkbook, so you don’t get that debit card declined … so embarrassing!

6 | What an advanced care directive is and why you should have one Once you turn 18, the law states that you can make your own medical decisions. Since you’re away from home, you need to think about what you would want done in the event of a life-threatening accident. A living will gives specific instructions, while a durable power of attorney is when you assign someone to make the decisions for you. It’s a heavy but necessary discussion to have with your family. Go to Colin Smith’s article Happy 18th Birthday on Goodlifefamilymag.com for more details. 

7 | How to manage time You might have a part-time job along with classes, homework and social time. Just like with money, getting real makes a huge difference. Google Calendar is a great on-the-go option and different activities can be color-coded, so you can see where you might have a free block of time … or where you may be double-booking yourself. Don’t forget to plan sleep time in there, or you’ll burn out fast.

8 | How to refill a prescription Make sure you have insurance information handy, so it can be logged in the database, and find a drugstore that will take your insurance. The first time you do this, you will likely need to contact your doctor so he/she can contact the pharmacy, but after that refills should be smooth sailing.

9 | How to deal with people There truly 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 your case with a professor, doctor or boss, but you also don’t have to always go for the win.

10 | How to use public transportation Check online or grab a paper schedule and route. If you’re still confused, ask someone at the station how to get where you need to go, then buy your ticket using your student discount.

Now that you have some important basics down, relax and enjoy your college experience, knowing you are prepared for whatever life throws your way.

Editor’s Note: Kerrie McLoughlin is a seasoned homeschooling mom of 5 and author of The Tater Tot Casserole Cookbook. 

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