keep-calm-and-welcome-to-the-real-worldWhen you were little, your parents taught you the important stuff like the ABC’s and how to tie your shoes. For the first several years, parents seem to have a checklist of age-appropriate skills. They mentally check off those skills as their child progresses. Once you reach your teens, however, the checklist seems to go away.   As a result, many of life’s important lessons are left to chance. As you’re getting ready to head off to college make sure that you have the right life skills for success.

‘Spin Cycle’ isn’t a class at the gym.

The stereotypical college movie shows college students hauling bags of dirty laundry into their car, heading home, where mom happily washes, dries, and folds the pile of clothes. To avoid this ‘it’s funny in movies, not in real life’ scenario, ask your parent to conduct a class in Laundry 101. Stain treatment and removal, sorting and washing different types of clothes, reading a clothes label, and using coin-operated laundry machines should be included. How to work the dryer (and cleaning the lint filter) and using an iron is important, as well.

There’s more to life than instant noodles.

Instant, ready-made meals have made cooking easier than ever. Even though most dorms are only equipped with microwaves, being able to plan, shop, and cook healthy meals will ensure that you can feed yourself when the need arises. Make sure you know how to use basic kitchen appliances: microwave, stove, oven, mixer, and can opener (electric and hand-operated), to start. Compile a collection of favorite recipes and make sure you know how to read and prepare them. As part of your ‘How to Use the Kitchen’ curriculum, ask your parent to let you help make grocery lists, and do the shopping at the grocery store.

‘Available Balance’ doesn’t mean ‘How much I can spend’.

Banking and money matters are life-skills where most teens get very little practice. Often, teens open their first bank account as they are heading off to college. As a result, they suddenly have access to debit (and/or credit) cards, have little supervision, and must learn on their own. Despite the increased dependence on banking apps and online account access, you need to know how to balance your account and budget your money. Learning to plan for expenses, live within your means, and pay bills on-time are skills that will help you throughout the rest of your life. Ask your parents to help you set up a bank account (some banks offer joint accounts for parents and teens). Most banks now offer resources and support for learning about money; contact your bank to see what they have available.

‘No’ isn’t a dirty word.

Unfortunately, the news is filled with examples of people who apparently never learned this lesson. Learning to use and accept the word ‘No’ is essential to becoming a well-adjusted adult. Practice using the word ‘No’ with your friends. It is possible to nicely, but firmly, decline invitations and requests. Equally as important is learning to accept the word ‘No’ as a final answer. Understanding that you don’t always get your way is important to future relationship success.

There’s always a consequence.

When you were little, your parents wanted to shield you from the harsh reality of the world. If you forgot your homework, they’d bring it to you. Lost your electronic device? They’d replace it. Unfortunately, these ‘helpful’ actions (while awesome as a kid) don’t really help you in the real world.  You can’t explain to your professor that your mom is going to bring your homework in later, and your boss won’t accept ‘But my dad won’t get me a new phone!’ as a reason you didn’t show up to work on time.

As hard as it is to accept, there are consequences to your actions, and becoming an adult means learning how to make better choices and be more responsible.  It can hurt – no one likes to admit a mistake or miss out on an event because of poor planning, but learning the lessons early will prevent major heartbreak and problems down the road.

Preparing for college can be exciting and scary. Are you really ready? Will you survive without your parents there to guide you every day? Make sure you practice these important life skills before you start packing up your room. You (and your parents) will breathe easier knowing that you’ve got the basics down before you go.