“Common sense is not so common.” —Voltaire
Truer words were never spoken when it comes to college students. After all, they were smart enough to get into college, but how will they fare on everyday tasks?
If you’re one of the “olds,” (and hint—if you have a kid old enough to be in college, you definitely are) you might be surprised at these everyday skills that most college kids don’t possess. And it’s not because they are lazy or dumb; many of them just haven’t encountered what we might consider to be “everyday tasks” in their everyday lives.
With this primer, your college student will earn an A+ in self-maintenance. (For grades, they’re on their own.)
How to Do Laundry
Of course, we are starting with this because it’s almost a cliché—the pink socks that come from washing an errant red T-shirt. But the truth is that many teens believe there is a laundry fairy who handles this chore. And maybe there was one in your house, but that laundry fairy will not be joining them at school.
Here are a few tips to share with them:
- Sort—or not: Many kids will just throw all their laundry in one load…and that might work some of the time but talk to them about red clothing and items that should be washed on cold.
- Check pockets: Washing and drying gum can be a huge mess; their phone is a whole different level.
- Pretreat stains: Otherwise they may become as permanent as their new tattoos.
- Choose the temperature: These days most washers can accommodate a warm load for most things, but sheets and towels should still be washed in hot, and delicate items need cold.
- Know what to dry: Most wool items will shrink if they’re not careful.
- Avoiding rips and rigs: Make sure they will use mesh laundry bags to protect delicate items in the wash.
- Finally, let them know that using bleach is an advanced skill, probably best for another time.
How to Manage Money
If the machine keeps giving you money, then you must have some in your account, right? Wrong…that’s called an overdraft and it can cost you—big time. Teens might be pretty adept at the whole debit card thing, but there’s a lot more to banking than that, points out Megan Cannon, a licensed clinical social worker and owner of Back to Balance Counseling, LLC in Hinsdale, Illinois.
“Many have never even been in a bank,” she says, recommending that you go in with your teen to open an account.
Explain common banking tasks so they start healthy financial habits early. Cover how to write and deposit a check, as well as how to set up automatic payments and auto deposit.
How to Meet Professors
Getting to know your professor is a huge part of succeeding in college. Remind your child to check and see when office hours are, usually listed on the class syllabus. Most professors are in their offices for a set number of hours each week, and believe it or not, they are actually waiting for kids to come by and talk to them. It’s smart to go in that first week just to introduce yourself and let them know that you are excited about their class. Let your college student know to follow through by being engaged during class and participate in class discussions
While being the “teacher’s pet” shouldn’t be a thing in college, we won’t lie—it can sometimes help you get out of a jam if the professor actually knows your name and feels as though you care.
On that same note, there’s another way to impress your professors: Show up. In fact, knowing how to wake up on their own and be on time is something you should impress upon your kids, says Donna Lubrano, a professor at Northeastern University, who teaches pre-college programs in the summer.
“You would be amazed at the numbers of teenagers who can’t wake up on their own and don’t understand what being late implies in a college classroom environment,” Lubrano says.
How to Make Friends (Without Your Phone)
This must be said: Many kids aren’t great about just saying “hello” and striking up a conversation, or asking another hallmate to join them for dinner without texting first. Then when they do show up at the dining hall, most of them are so engrossed in their phones that they don’t even notice if someone has sat down next to them.
Here’s one handy way to get the ball rolling if your child is living in the dorm: Encourage them to get a cheap door stopper and use it to keep their door open. Other kids are also looking for new friends, and are liable to stop on in if a door is open.
Also talk to them about just striking up a conversation as they stroll out of class; maybe ask that person if they are headed to lunch.
“Unglue them from the phone and teach them to talk to each other and work with someone else,” Lubrano says. “The opportunities are endless but kids will miss out if they are buried in their phone.”
How to Take Care of Themselves If They’re Sick
Many kids have never made a doctor’s appointment for themselves, and might not know what to do or where to call if they get sick, says Cannon.
“It can be scary being sick while away from home so make sure your child knows how to differentiate between something benign and more serious symptoms that shouldn’t wait,” Cannon says
Make sure they know how to use your insurance card, or where to find the health center if they will be using the on-campus facility. It’s also smart to send them with a little medicine kit of their own, stocked with the items they always expected you to have around—from pain reliever to cough syrup, stomach soother, bandages, ointment and more. And let them know which treatments are for which ailments.