10 Things Your Child Should Know Before Going To College

10 Things Your Child Should Know

Before Going to College

From the moment your child is born, you’ve done everything you possibly can to help them grow into an independent, smart, and capable adult. And congratulations­ – your hard work has paid off! Your child is almost ready to head off to college. I’ve compiled a list of (almost) everything that a young adult should know before college in order to have the smoothest and most successful departure from the nest. Whether they have one year or one week left in your home, there is always time to teach them a few more things!

How to manage their time…

In high school, most kids have their parents to enforce a general schedule. I wasn’t allowed to go out on weeknights, and I couldn’t stay out past midnight on the weekends. I always set my alarm and got myself up for school, but my mom would be pounding on my door if, for some odd reason, I hadn’t left at my usual time. Many of my high school peers had parents who would force them to study or complete homework every night.

That’s over when your child leaves for college. Teach them the importance of creating and sticking to a schedule. Remind them that leaving things to the last second is irresponsible and can often backfire. Tell them that by using their time wisely, they’ll actually end up having more time for the fun stuff. My mom also wisely warned me that a lot of the students I would see partying every single night of the week might not be back for the second semester (and she was right).

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How to budget their money…

Learning how to manage finances in college is tricky, and it was absolutely my biggest challenge after leaving home. A lot of my friends were smart, frugal, and money-savvy by the time they got to college, and your child can be too, with a little help.

Create a financial plan with them, whether that includes getting a part-time job at school, receiving an allowance, or becoming a money-saving machine over school holidays. Teach them how to keep track of their regular expenses, and remind them how important it is to set money aside for the unexpected things, like a laptop crashing. Most importantly, remind them that making sacrifices is a normal and inevitable part of growing up. They cannot go out to eat every night of the week, even if their friends are. They cannot update their wardrobe every season. Have them start monitoring their expenses while they’re still home, and they’ll have some practice once they head to school.

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How to grocery shop and cook simple meals…

The Freshman 15 is very real, and it can be a huge stressor for college students. During my freshman year, it was clear that the biggest reason people gained weight was because of the abundance of easy, unhealthy meals. Frozen pizzas and microwaveable macaroni and cheese were cheap, delicious, and a cinch to make… why would we need anything else?

Help your child learn how to grocery shop on a budget and throw together simple meals. Buying a bag of greens and some easy salad toppers might not be Top Chef material, but it's inexpensive, easy, and much healthier than most microwavable options. Point out the price differences in brand name versus generic grocery items, and help them read nutrition labels and decipher portion sizes. Of course, your child will make their own diet choices once they get to school, but you can supply them with some healthy tips to point them in the right direction.

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How to do their laundry…

I was shocked every time I saw a washing machine overflow with bubbles in my freshman dorm laundry room. Yes, I witnessed this multiple times. While many of my college friends had been doing their laundry since middle school, others had never touched a washing machine in their life. Spend ten minutes with your child and make sure they know how to properly load and run a washing machine and dryer. Even if they think they know how to do it correctly, walk them through it one more time. The freshman sharing their laundry room will thank you.

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How to maintain healthy habits…

It’s not your job to create a weightlifting schedule for your kid or to take them on training runs at 5 a.m., but I think it is so imperative that parents show their kids the importance of exercise and other healthy habits. From a young age, my parents talked the talk and walked the walk, showing me that making time for exercise and treating your body well was important.

Remind your son or daughter that physical activity can be a huge stress reliever in college. For me, going on a run in between study sessions always made the biggest difference in my anxiety and energy levels. Going to the gym together also became a social activity, and I bonded with friends while we worked out. Whether your child is an avid athlete or not so exercise-inclined, talk to them about the importance of incorporating physical activity into their college lifestyle.

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How to manage conflict…

My mom and I butted heads throughout high school, and my dad often acted as the family mediator. My parents never let me run away from a problem or shrug off a fight – something that I absolutely hated at the time but proved hugely beneficial once I got to school. Your child won’t be able to sweep problems with their roommate under the dorm room rug, so don’t let them do it at home.

Teach them the importance of cooling off and talking through a problem. Remind them that saying, “I feel like the room is really messy,” sounds much better than saying, “You always trash the room!” Most importantly, teach them that working through a problem calmly and maturely will always feel better than yelling and stomping.

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How to stand up for themselves…

Remind them that it is always ok to say “No” when they feel uncomfortable, and no matter what they might think, “everyone” isn’t doing it. This is something that you’ve probably been teaching your child since they were young, but it’s so important to reiterate it again and again before they leave your home. They will be confronted with all new situations and scenarios once they’re in college, and it’s crucial that they feel empowered and confident in their ability to hold their ground.

It can be hard to talk to your child about this without it seeming like a cliché lecture. In my personal experience, the best thing that my parents did was talk candidly about the consequences of following the crowd, and they started an open and honest (and judgment-free) dialog. I always knew I was free to make my own choices, but my parents really ingrained in me that frankly, some choices were dumb.

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How to be accepting of others…

I can’t phrase this any other way: I grew up in a bubble. My hometown really doesn’t look that much different than a scene from Pleasantville. While it was a safe and comfortable place to grow up, I wasn’t exposed to many people different than myself. While my parents couldn't magically create a multicultural experience for me, they did everything they could to expose me to things “outside the bubble,” and teach me the importance of acceptance. They (very loudly) condemned and corrected anything that was remotely close-minded or intolerant.

Your child will meet people from every walk of life in college. The best thing you can do is to not only talk to your child about being open-minded, but also show them how. Remind them that embracing these people with open arms will only enrich their experience.

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How to ask for help…

It is not embarrassing, weak, or silly to ask for help. Even as a big, bad college student who knows everything about everything (ha!), sometimes your child will need help, and it’s important they know that that’s OK. Whether it’s an academic issue, a social issue, or a personal issue, remind them that there are always people who will listen and help them.

Teach your child to trust their instincts. If they see or experience something that doesn’t feel right, they can ask for help. If they think they or a friend might be in trouble, it is brave to speak up. There are very few consequences for reaching out for support, but there can be many consequences for staying quiet.

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How to be patient…

Starting college can be a crazy transition. In the beginning, everything feels foreign and uncomfortable. Remind your child that it is perfectly normal to feel out of place, homesick, and even sad. They need to give themselves time to adjust – after all, they’ve probably lived at home their entire life until this point! Eventually, campus will start to feel like home and their friends will start to feel like family. Remind them to simply be patient, with themselves and with others.

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