Updated on July 6th, 2020
Before your high schooler goes to college, it’s crucial that they have particular life skills that will help them thrive. But some of these core competencies are accidentally neglected, especially if they are activities that parents normally manage.
Without certain life skills, your student isn’t only going to be faced with the new challenge of being a college student; they are also going to have to learn some foundational skills associated with being an adult in the world today. However, by taking the time to teach them in advance, you can relieve this burden, making their transition into their new phase of life so much easier.
Life skills often don’t take long to learn or teach, even if it feels like they can take a lifetime to master.
To help your student get started in the world of “adulting,” here are some points to cover now on skills needed before college, regardless of how old your child may be.
1. Money Management
While talking about money isn’t always comfortable, understanding how to handle the basics, like budgeting and bill payments, are critical life skills your child needs to have down before they head to college. This is even more relevant if they have to use student loans to fund a portion of their education or will receive most of their financial support in the form of lump sum scholarships, which must be managed effectively to last through the semester or year.
These discussions can include anything from how compound interest can harm when it’s associated with debt, or help when it comes to savings and investing. You can also show them how to identify their expenses and create a budget, as well as monitor their small expenditures, like a daily cup of coffee at a café, that can add up quickly.
If you would like more guidance on money management life skills, check out this article: How to Start Managing Money with Your Teen. It will help you get started on the right track.
Part of the money management discussion should include finding ways to bring in money. One of which, our favorite, of course, is through outside scholarships. If you and your child would like to learn more about applying for scholarships so they can bring in debt-free money to pay for college, sign up for our free college scholarship webinar. It’s a great way to learn about the process and how to identify scholarship opportunities, both of which are great life skills for helping them graduate debt free.
2. Grocery Shopping and Basic Cooking
Unless the idea of your child living off of Top Ramen, Pizza Rolls and fast food sounds appealing, it is important that they know how to shop for nutritious foods and cook.
Being able to select their own ingredients and craft their own meals are crucial life skills, even if they are going to initially have a meal plan (hey, they aren’t going to live in that dorm forever!).
And even more so, it could save them THOUSANDS of dollars. I spent over $1,200 eating out my first school year! By giving your student some simple cooking skills, you could save that money!
Start by teaching them the essentials, like how to make a shopping list, compare prices when they are in the store, follow a recipe, and produce standard fare like baked chicken. The idea is to give them a foundation so that the thought of fending for themselves feels less intimidating, making it easier for them to handle these tasks on their own when the time comes.
You may even want to get them a cookbook on microwavable meals since many students only have access to a microwave in their dorm.
Here is a couple that we like:
If your child isn’t handling their own laundry, now is the perfect time for them to get started. Teach them how to read washing and drying guidelines on labels, which temperatures they should use when, and even how much detergent and fabric softener to use in the beginning.
Ruining a load of clothes because that red shirt dyed all of their whites a lovely shade of pink may be a somewhat amusing lesson, but it can be an expensive and disheartening one too. Give them an overview of this, one of the critical life skills, and let them start handling this chore on their own.
4. Vehicle Maintenance and Repair
For students who will have a car with them when they go to college, learning how to properly maintain their vehicle and handle basic repairs are must-have life skills.
All car owners should know how to handle the necessities, like when and where to get an oil change, how to change a tire or the windshield wiper blades, and how to check tire pressure and add air.
If your child hasn’t been introduced to these activities, consider giving them a few lessons or taking them along when you get maintenance performed on your vehicle. Even if they will have access to a roadside assistance plan, it’s best to know how to do certain things for themselves.
5. Apartment Hunting
Not every college student ends up in a dorm. Some secure off-campus apartments either out of necessity or simple preference. But finding your first place can be intimidating and even dangerous if they don’t know how to do so safely.
Before your child heads out on their own, make sure they understand where to search for apartments, the responsibilities that come with a lease, and any red flags that should make them immediately start looking elsewhere, especially since there are housing scams that specifically target college students.
If you want to learn more about the housing scam (and others) that your child may encounter, check out this article: 6 College Scams to Watch for and How to Avoid Them
6. Time Management
Once they head to college, your child isn’t likely going to have someone looking over their shoulder to make sure they stay on target with their schedule. Instead, this responsibility is going to fall squarely on them, which can be a rude awakening if they aren’t prepared.
To help your student manage this transition more effectively, encourage them to start taking advantage of time management tools now. Anything from maintaining a calendar on their smartphone to keeping a running to-do list can help and will make sure they have at least the basics covered for this life skill.
After all, their life is about to become incredibly unstructured, in comparison to now, so everything you do today can ensure they are as prepared as possible to manage their own life when the time comes.
7. Professional-Quality Emails
Most teenagers view digital communications as casual, often exchanging a plethora of messages with friends on a daily basis. But, once they start preparing for or heading to college, they may need to rely on email for professional communications, such as when they need to reach out to a professor, a manager offering an internship, or even someone offering a scholarship.
Knowing that “textspeak” and emojis aren’t necessarily appropriate for these messages is important, especially if it harms their chances of being selected for something as valuable as an internship or scholarship.
8. Unique Household Life Skills
Ultimately, every family is different, and you likely know your child’s hobbies and preferences better than anyone. If there is a particular life skill that you think will benefit them based on your household, then don’t be afraid to share it!
Every life skills lesson can be incredibly valuable, so start teaching them today. In the end, it will make your student’s transition to college so much easier, and you’ll feel more secure knowing that they have the skills they need to succeed in all aspects of their new life.
Did I miss any that you think are important? Comment below with other life skills that you think are essential before heading off to college.