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15 life skills every kid should know before they leave for college

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.

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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).

Life Skills Every Kid Needs
Image: Karen Cox/SheKnows

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.

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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.

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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.

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