Last year, my son went to college. It was the most exciting year of his life. It was the most challenging year of my life.
At one point, I started feeling like a complete failure of a parent. Did I fail to prepare my son for college? I know that he’s not a kid anymore. I know that he’s a grown-up human being who’s supposed to take responsibility about his own actions. But still… I wished I’d done things a bit differently.
From my own experience, I realized it was important for teenagers to learn four things before going to college. Hopefully, I can give you some tips on things to teach your child before college.
College Is Not Just a Place Where You Get Your Diploma
My son is an overachiever. I’m mentioning this as a flaw, ‘cause that’s exactly what it was.
When my son started college, most of the complaints were about studying too much. He was spending all of his free time in the library… studying. He couldn’t stand his roommates because they were making too much noise. He was only focused on classes, projects, exams, and credits.
But college is not only about the degree. It’s mostly about building interpersonal relationships.
Believe it or not, I advised my kid to take things lightly. Yes; I was the one suggesting college homework help when I realized he was spending too much time in the library. I just wanted him to find some balance between his studies and his personal life. Just as we need our work-life balance, students need their time off, too.
Your Roommates Can Be Your Best Friends
My college roommates were my best friends. We shared our struggles and our joys all the time. Of course we had disagreements, but we were able to sort them out in a civilized manner. As I could understand, this was a rare case. Most students are having troubles finding common ground with their roommates.
Some of the most problems include lack of personal hygiene, messy habits, eating the other person’s food, borrowing stuff without permission, and making too much noise. My son was mostly complaining about the noise.
He told me his roommates had no idea what roommate etiquette meant. Well guess what: my son had no idea about etiquette, either. Why did someone leave a bag of chips on his bed? Why didn’t his roommate pick up the dirty socks? He turned everything into an argument instead of trying to have a civilized conversation about it.
Etiquette means leaving things in order, but it also means being as friendly as possible even when you have some remarks to share. They don’t have to argue about everything. Most people are reasonable enough to understand what they are doing wrong if you’re willing to tell them through a calm conversation.
You Have to Manage Your Money
My son doesn’t cook and he absolutely hated the food in the dining hall. He was buying food every single day. He was ordering pizza most of the time. Add the desserts and soda, and there you have it – a huge amount of money being spent on unhealthy food.
As a parent, I was sorry seeing my son struggle. But I stopped sending extra money at one point. My help wasn’t teaching him how to manage his money. He had to tone his expenses down, and he managed to do that, eventually. It was a harsh lesson, but I did what I thought was the right thing to do.
You Have to Manage Your Time
At college, there are four main activities to occupy your day: classes, studying/writing, partying, and sleep. It seems like too much to handle, so students are often eliminating one of these activities (it’s usually the classes or the studying part).
College students have to understand that there is time for everything. So what if the classes take most of your day? You can learn while you’re there. Just be more attentive and take your notes. Go through the notes and studying materials as soon as you get out of class, so the knowledge will stick with you. Then you’ll rest, do some more studying, and spend some time with your friends. Reserve the partying for the weekend. If you get stuck, outsource some of the writing or give up on the parties before exam week.
See? It looks so good when someone organizes your time. The problem is that you have to organize your own time, and you have to stay on track with the schedule.
Are we prepared to teach our kids how to become grown-ups? It’s a real test for parenting, and that’s an understatement.