Whether you're pushing your college-bound kid reluctantly out of the nest or with gusto, you're both going to feel much better about the transition if you've prepped them for the nitty-gritty of the real world. No, we're not just talking about the big stuff like safety and career guidance. We're talking about the little "real-world" things every grown-up child must eventually learn how to do -- like cooking a decent meal, for starters.
You can try to walk them through it on the phone, or you can teach them now so you can spend that precious phone time chatting about the stuff you really care about (whether or not they're doing their homework and who they're dating).
1. How to cook something that doesn't come in a box with powder labeled "sauce."
Do the math on that college meal plan and you'll find you're probably paying well over $5 (closer to $10) a meal at many universities. If your kid's school allows it, an induction cooker and some pots and pans will solve that problem. Besides, they'll eventually move off-campus anyway.
2. How to grocery shop on a budget
If you're opting out of that pricey meal plan, you'll be relying on your kid to spend their (or possibly your) money wisely. They need to know how to shop without spending a boatload of money. Pro tip: If you're going to be footing the bill for their food, get them a gift card for a local grocery store for a set amount each month — that way, they can't blow their lunch money on partying.
3. How to do their laundry
Do your kids really know how to do their own laundry? What to do when there's a stain? How to separate their clothes and what temperatures to use? You'd be surprised how many college students don't really know this stuff. Think about it. Even if they really do their own laundry at home (and don't half-do their laundry and have Mom finish it), they've just been using whatever settings you told them to on your machine for probably 10 years. When they get to a new machine, do they actually know what to do?
4. How to say "no"
This is an important one. Not only can people who don't know how to say "no" wind up over-scheduled and stressed, but they'll be presented with a lot of questionable options and you won't be there to monitor them.
5. How to change a tire
It's not if, but when your tire will blow. Nothing is worse than being stranded on the side of the road and having to hope that the guy who stopped to help really is just being a nice guy. Make sure they have the tools to do it, too.
6. How to jump-start a car
Seriously… They're going to try even if they don't know how, and it could be dangerous.
7. How to study
It seems silly, but even a lot of students who do really well in high school fall apart in college because they don't know how to study. In college, it's not enough to read the textbook. They need to know how to identify what they're expected to know — what the point of the lesson is — and how to test themselves (preferably multiple times) before the professor does. Unlike high school teachers, professors may not have any actual education in educating, so they can't count on the teacher to feed them the info anymore.
Next Up: How to write an essay
8. How to write an essay
They won't just be writing essays as homework, but as part of their tests. They don't have time to write and rewrite, so they need a formula. I recommend the five-paragraph essay format, as it seems to work well for most subjects.
9. How to proofread
They won't be able to have Mom and Dad go over their work anymore, and in college, they shouldn't be surprised if their history or theater teachers take points off for grammar errors. They need to learn tricks for proofreading their own writing.
10. How to budget and pay bills
Even if your student has had a job before, that doesn't mean they really know how to budget money. After all, they've always had Mom and Dad to back them up if they ran out. Make sure they know how to budget money for the month so they know how much Monopoly money they really have and how (and when) to pay bills.
11. How to use a credit card
Even if they don't have one yet, the offers will start pouring in shortly after they get their own mailbox. And now that they're adults, you have to accept that they don't need your permission to sign up for one. Make sure they understand interest rates (which are insanely high when you're 18 and the only thing on your credit history is the student loan you haven't started paying back yet), when it's OK to use the card (that is, not to buy tons of cute clothes you couldn't otherwise afford) and when to pay them back.
12. How to send a professional email
Because let's face it, you can't shoot your professor a note that says "what up, Dr. B!" then forward her a roundup of Grumpy cat lookalikes from your grandma.
13. How to put on a condom
These days, many schools offer abstinence-only sex education. Even if you agree with this policy in general, it's unlikely your student won't become sexually active at some point (if they aren't already) during college. If you don't feel comfortable teaching them (or you think they'd be too mortified watching Mom put a condom on a zucchini), your local Planned Parenthood can help.
14. Basic first aid
Accidents happen, so make sure your kid knows how to administer immediate and appropriate treatment for burns and cuts in addition to CPR.
15. Basic home and car repair and maintenance
They don't need to know how to dismantle an engine block or build an ark, but knowing basic stuff like checking (or even changing) the oil, changing spark plugs or the battery, and fixing a minor plumbing issue or the toilet isn't just handy (and money-saving), it builds confidence.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below:
Originally published Oct. 2015. Updated July 2016.