College was a truly unique experience for me. Suddenly, I had only two rules in my life: Don’t get arrested, and pass your classes. Coming from a fairly strict family, I was thrilled with my newfound freedom. I remember approaching my new life with a sense of carefree abandon, eager to learn and experience all that I could.
College is obviously a different world from living at home with a loving parent or two, and there are certain skills that can help a teen transition from high school to college, and even from college to adult life.
This is my “Top 5”, but is by no means an exhaustive list; actually, I would like to hear some of your suggestions!
1. Take care of their health
Okay, I freely admit bias on this one- but your teen should know how to contact a medical provider, schedule an appointment, show up for that appointment, and then follow the doctor’s recommendations. It’s a good idea, once they are 16 or 17, to start transferring some of that responsibility onto their shoulders. If your teen takes a daily medication, they should be responsible for remembering it, and be able to do it, before they leave home.
Teens with more complicated chronic illnesses can thrive and have a great time at college, but extra planning is key. Try having them contact the student health department ahead of time to discuss what kind of care they can receive there, and let them lead the way in planning for the transition with their doctor(s).
2. Open and manage a bank account
Most of the people I went to college with are in credit card debt. While sometimes credit card debt is unavoidable, sometimes it is because people aren’t sure how to live within their means. Working with a checking account or low-limit credit card, and learning how to balance their finances, is something every teen should know how to do.
3. Communicate with adults
One could argue that a person in college is an adult. However, older teenagers will be communicating with professors, administrative workers, future employers, and a host of new adults when they enter college. Things that seem simple to you or me are not intuitive for all adolescents entering adulthood- for example: when discussing big issues, meet in person; dress nicely if you are trying to get a job or scholarship; when emailing, don’t use abbreviations and use Spell-Check. The son of one of our staff, newly graduated from a good university, didn’t realize it was inappropriate to wear jeans to a job interview. Your experience can be very useful.
4. Know college resources
Every college has resources available to their students, and once your teen knows where they are heading, it’s good to do some research. Where do they go if they need counseling about something? What if their roommate goes berserk and starts throwing things around? What if they need emergency help with tuition or expenses? What if they need to visit the Social Security or Department of Licensing office? What if they lose the access card to their dorm at 3 a.m.? Ideally, they’re doing this research- not you!
5. Make ramen
Cheap, satisfying, and of minimal nutritional value, ramen is a staple food of college students. It’s a good food when the dining halls are closed, you’re a bit broke, and you need something to get you through your all-nighter. Since all you really need to do to make ramen is boil water, hopefully your teen can do this. If they get really good at boiling water, they might even get creative with their ramen by adding vegetables, eggs, or tofu.
What do you think teens need to know how to do before setting forth on this adventure?