Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I’ve already sent one of my children off to college, and now the two youngest are moving quickly in the same direction. Although Anika won’t be starting college until next fall, Parker is looking to move into his dorms in only a month’s time. Before I become too hysterical about my children abandoning me, I want to consider the life lessons that every kid should know before leaving for college that will help them be capable adults.

  1. How to budget

Although they’ve passed laws preventing credit card companies from preying on college students, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other financial traps. Some kids work in college, and some don’t, but every student should know the basics of how a credit card works and how to pay the bills on time. Also, encourage your kids to keep a bit of “fun money” each month, because no one was meant to only work and pay bills.

  1. Loans are not free money

The budgeting conversation should also spin off into a realistic talk about the difference between loans, grants, and scholarships. Too many students get excited about the money that’s being handed to them by the government, without any thought as to where it came from. Most of that money has to be returned at some point, so use loans wisely.

  1. Staying safe

Dorms are breeding grounds for all sorts of unsafe choices, which is to be expected. Do you assume your child will follow every rule set by the college? Not necessarily, but safety is always a top concern. Discuss with your children how drugs and alcohol, even in the college environment, pose a huge risk. At age 18 in the United States, it’s still illegal, and there are consequences to such actions. Teach your kids who they can contact in an emergency and how to get out of sticky situations.

  1. Responsibility

You won’t be there every morning to make sure that your child makes their 8am class or completes their homework on time. Instill responsibility before they leave for college to make sure that they can handle the independence college offers. Those loans will be there, whether your student goes to class or not.

  1. How to make a grilled cheese

Most campuses offer meal plans for incoming freshman, but your child can’t rely on someone else to provide meals forever. Teach some kitchen basics and encourage your child to make their own meals before leaving for college. Even if all they eat are fried eggs, ramen, and macaroni and cheese for a few years, they’ll be alright.

  1. The proper dose of Dayquil

Your kid is going to get sick. College campuses are a common place for germs and close quarters with other students is going to end in some colds. Teach your child how to medicate themselves with Tylenol, Dayquil or allergy medicines as necessary. It also won’t hurt for them to know how to brew some tea.

  1. Respect for themselves and others

This is a great life tip, but especially important in college. A college campus is a diverse mix of people, and it’s important to have respect for all walks of life. Don’t let your child accept abuse for their personal views and teach them to stand up for the unique views of others.

  1. Housekeeping 101

For those with kids heading to the dorms, it can be difficult to navigate the room situation. However, there’s not many things worse than a dirty roommate. Teach your child to clean up after themselves and maintain their own space. Regular showers are important, too.

  1. The right to change your mind

College is not a life sentence or promise. Whatever major your child dedicated themselves to as a freshman does not have to stay the same when they are a junior. Make sure your child knows that they can always change paths. College is about exploration and finding new interests, and there are no limits.

  1. Life is short

College is only a stepping stone into what will hopefully be an eventful life. Teach your child not to hesitate to launch into new opportunities, such as internships or even study abroad programs. Encourage your child to embrace college as a place where they can explore themselves.

I’m so excited for Parker to embark on this new adventure. Although I’ll be crying all the way home once I’ve dropped him off, I’ll trust that he has learned these lessons and is ready to learn more. You can’t teach your child everything, but you can offer these foundations to success.