I feel like I was more or less prepared to live on my own at the start of college. However, both from our personal experiences, whether they were from ourselves or seeing others, and from seeing other parents with college-age kids, it seems that many people are unprepared to handle the day to day activities required to live on your own. In most cases, it seems it’s not because the kids are too young, or too irresponsible, or had parents that were too overbearing. I think mostly it’s just a case of overlooking things; nobody ever really discussed some of these details with them. Main things are covered, but the little details slip through the cracks.
So Sara and I attempted to put together a check list of things we’d like our kids to know by the time they start college. Granted, we’ve got a little time before this is really an issue for us, but the Internet is forever and the list will stay here until we need it. A lot of these things are probably applicable to living on their own in general, but our experience is specifically with college being the first time out on our own, and there are some challenges that are specific to that area.
In no specific order:
- Know how to write checks and balance a checkbook.
- Know how to wash and dry clothes. This includes trying a variety of machines, at least one of which is a pay machine, before going.
- Expectation management: Expect to go to all your classes, buy all your books, etc. College is now your full time job; you should expect to total 40 hours/week of class or studying (which is probably less than recommended but more than needed to just skate by–this should be a good intermediate amount). Believe me, it still leaves you plenty of free time.
- Live in the dorm for at least one year to meet new people.
- If you have a credit card (and I think both having one and not having one are okay), do not charge more on it than you can pay off that month–EVER. Waiting until you have the money for something builds character, and being fiscally responsible means you’ll ultimately have more stuff in the long run (and live a longer, less stressful life in which to enjoy it!)
- If you live in a dorm, enjoy the fact that you don’t have to cook, but make good food choices. Eat a salad every day (oh, the prep-work that you are missing out on)! Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies daily. Don’t exclusively drink pop (it is gross and full of chemicals). When you live on your own, realize that simple meals at home are cheaper and healthier than lean cuisine and take-out.
- This is the only time you will ever have a free gym membership! Figure out how to use the machines, take advantage of any free or low-cost classes you are curious about, and play wallyball!
- Know how ATMs work. Understand ATM fees (don’t use another bank’s ATM).
- Know basic household maintenance (how to change a light switch, how to remove and clean the trap under the sink, etc.)
- Know basic sewing skills (how to hem pants, how to sew on a button, etc.)
- You don’t need to be the cleanest person in the world, but you do need to be responsible for yourself. Make sure you know how to vacuum, dust, sweep, do the dishes, take out the trash, etc.
Anything we missed? Anything you wish you knew when you (or your children) went to college?