You’re going to learn so much in college—academically and otherwise. What you may not realize, however, is that learning to navigate your own personal world is very important if you want to make the most of your experience in the academic world. It’s hard to think about getting A’s in your classes when you find yourself wearing dirty clothes for two weeks because you haven’t figured out how to use laundry facilities, or when you’re constantly not feeling your best because of poor food choices.
That said, there are some skills you should take with you to college so that you are prepared to handle college life. And nope, I’m not just talking about the big stuff like how to prevent burn-out or how to listen to your gut or even career guidance. I’m talking about the little “real-world” things every grown-up child must learn how to do: the practical, life management skills one needs in order to successfully leave home and adjust to college life as an independent, self-directed, responsible, resourceful person who wouldn’t have to call mommy for help every few hours.
So, regardless if your parents are pushing you out of the nest reluctantly or with gusto, you might as well try to learn a few things from them, first to make the transition easier for all.
How to Do Laundry
Do you know how to do your own laundry? You may have done it a few times at home, but I’m pretty sure you just used whatever machine settings your mom told you to. When you get to a new machine, do you actually know what to do?
Don’t be like this freshman (let’s just call him Randy) who realized too late that he had only been rinsing his clothes all year because he never bothered to put detergent in the washer. You can’t blame him, he honestly thought that’s what the quarters were for!
So don’t be a Randy, learn how to do laundry the right way. What do you do when there’s a stain? How do you separate clothes so you don’t end up with pink dress shirts or blouses that used to be white? What temperature should you use? Ask your parents to teach you these things and have a few good laughs along the way. If after the lessons you still can’t figure it out, consider staying home or wear nothing but underwear forever.
How to Feed Yourself
News flash: feeding yourself doesn’t just mean putting food stuff into your mouth. Well yeah, for sure you’ve developed the motor skills needed for that, but you and I know that’s not what I mean when I say you should learn to feed yourself properly.
Man cannot live on McDonalds’s alone. And while frozen pizza and ramen noodles are cheap and easy to prepare, you shouldn’t forget that you’re sabotaging your health by subsisting on these so-called food items with nutritional values just slightly above a salted paper towel.
So before you go off to live on your own, you need to learn how to cook healthy, inexpensive meals, learn how to make a meal plan, as well as how to shop for a recipe. Or at least be aware of healthy, cost-effective food choices to avoid diving into a bag of chips all the time.
How to Manage Money
Avoid being the average broke college student by learning how to create a budget and live on it. As a student, it’s so important to keep your finances on track in order to save, as well as to avoid putting yourself in a tight spot. So if you want to be on your own, you want to learn how to be in control of your finances, rather than your finances in control of you
Paying bills is one big part of “adulting.” Because clearly, bills is what separates adults from kids. Learn to adopt good bill-paying habits by playing pretend. Write down a pretend budget, listing what you might need to spend on rent, groceries, transportation, etc. “Pay” your way within the family household while you’re still there. You can pay your parents in kind – by being helpful around the house, by being extra-nice to your siblings, or by not sleeping until noon. Or, by making an actual financial household contribution if you can afford to pay from your allowance.
Planning and Scheduling
All your life you have been able to depend on your parents for everything. They tell you what to wear, what you’re going to eat, where you’re going, when it’s bedtime, and more. There’s always someone to hold you accountable for your actions.
In college, no one will do that for you. Being out on your own means more freedom than you ever have before. With that freedom comes a lot of decision-making in regards to how you spend your free time and whether or not you show up to the places you need to be.
So while you’re still with your parents, learn to manage your own routine instead of relying on them to get you where you need to be. Practice setting an alarm and waking yourself up on your own instead of asking your parents to do so.
Creating and following a schedule will help you manage your time. And once you’re on your own, you’ll be much better off because you’ll already be used to that lifestyle.
How to Read a Map
I know what you’re thinking—who needs to learn how to read a map when there’s always GPS to tell you where to go and how to get there? Well, if there’s anything that technology has taught us, it is that it’s not always reliable. So this is an essential life skill you’ll want to have all the time—if only as a back-up plan. Especially if you’re moving to a new area where you’re unfamiliar with the streets.
“No matter how far we come, our parents are always in us.” ― Brad Meltzer
Your parents are there to bridge the gap between what you know and the life skills you need to have before you head off on your own. Allow them to teach you and learn from them.
And don’t forget, your parents remain a resource that you can tap into for advice long after you’ve moved out. If they’re anything like mine, they’ll even offer plenty that’s unsolicited.
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