8 Basic Life Skills You Should Learn Before Leaving College

You have your college acceptance letter in your hand and now are counting down the days before the big move to the city that will be your home for the next four to five years. But before you get too swept up in the process of packing, searching for your new roommate on Facebook, and tapping your chin over which courses to sign up for, take the time to learn these eight basic life skills while you’re still under parental supervision to make your new life at college much easier.

  1. Cook basic, healthy meals. College, unfortunately, can be a fattening time. In fact, more than 25% of college students gained more than five pounds in a mere eight weeks, according to an Oregon State University study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. When you’re living on your own without the luxury of dining on your parents’ dime and time, then whipping up a simple and healthy home-cooked meal may be near impossible, especially if you have no cooking skills or recipes whatsoever. Before leaving home to a world filled with fast food and expensive eats, either have someone teach you some basic healthy cooking skills or look it up and practice it on your own. Easy things that you can learn include frying an egg and making pastas packed with vegetables. Most school dorms will have a communal kitchen where you can cook. Making your own meals will not only keep you healthier than constantly dining out, but it will also save you money.
  2. Do Your Dishes After You Eat. After you’re done cooking and eating, it is imperative that you wash your dishes as soon as possible in order to avoid having your dishes become encrusted in grime and leaving a foul stench in the sink. Bacteria grows on food relatively quickly, so leaving a sink full of dirty dishes untouched is not only unsightly, but unsanitary as well. Take your turn to wash the dishes while at home to understand how clean your dishes need to be. Watch how others in your household scour the dishes so that you can mimic them later on, as well as how they dry and store those dishes. Remember that warm, soapy water is the best solution to use to clean your dishes and that they have to be completely dry before you stack them up in the cupboard again.
  3. Do Your Laundry. If you are living in a situation where someone else regularly washes, dries, and folds your clothes for you, then you need to make sure to do a few practice runs through the process before you leave home. In college, your mother will not be there to clean your clothes, so if you want to actually get rid of the pizza stains and gym-socks-smell of your worn clothes, you will need to do your laundry yourself. Most college campuses have communal laundry rooms where students can clean their dirty skivvies. Practicing doing your own laundry at home is an advantage because then you can ask the person who normally washes your clothes how they go about doing it, ensuring that when you mimic their strategy on campus, your clothes will come out of the washer as they always have. After all, you do not want to accidentally end up shrinking or dyeing your favorite shirt!
  4. Clean Up After Yourself. One of the biggest shockers when students head off to college is just how much of a slob they are. Dirty laundry is thrown on the ground, leftovers are piled in the refrigerator, and dishes are neglected in the sink. Without someone constantly nagging you to clean your room or make your bed, it can be all too easy to turn your room into a mess. Learn to pick up after yourself while you’re at home on a regular basis. Vacuum and dust your bedroom so that you can do the same in your dorm later on. Also, if you are moving into a dorm with a private bathroom, learn how to clean that too. Not only will your mother be impressed by how clean you are, but you’ll be able to have company over without shame once you’re in college as well!
  5. Spend Less Than You Earn. There is a reason that the college student stereotype is broke and must subsist on a diet of instant noodles. College is financially taxing, and many students cannot afford to work the types of jobs that will pay well while also pursuing a full-time education. This is why you must begin honing your money-saving skills well before you leave for school because only then can you avoid embarrassing phone calls home to ask for more money. While working at your current job, learn to deposit at least half of each paycheck into a checking or savings account. It will be difficult at first to suddenly have far less funds than you used to in your wallet, but it the money-saving process will get easier and easier as you grow accustomed to spending less and saving more. Once you are in college, you can revel in the fact that while everyone spends irresponsibly and inevitably end up broke, you will not only still have spending money for a night on the town, but also a healthy savings, which you can plan to use for your future retirement or even a big investment like a new car upon graduation.
  6. Manage a Credit Card. Aside from student loan debt, the majority of debt that students rack up upon graduation is related to credit card expenditures. In fact, the average student was $5,781 in credit card debt in 2006, a USA Today article reported. Oftentimes, college is the very first time a student will have possession of a credit card, and unfortunately, students often will abuse their plastic due to a general lack of understanding on how to manage it. Before college begins, try to convince your parents to help you open up a credit card account in your name. Ask for their pointers on how to responsibly use the card and take the advice seriously. Be sure to only spend as much as you can comfortably afford to pay. A credit card is not free money. In fact, you will be expected to pay back exactly what you spend and sometimes the bill even comes with additional fees on top of that. Having parental supervision during your first few months using a credit card can help immensely in molding your purchasing habits as well as your bill-paying habits before you head off to use the card independently in college.
  7. Understand Basic Finances. Though you may think that college is far too early to begin worrying about finances, keep in mind that you are likely going to be entering the professional job force and beginning your career immediately after graduating. Take advantage of the fact that your parents have handled their own finances for the past several decades and have them walk you through the most basic of financial responsibilities, such as how to pay your bills, how to file your taxes, and how to begin saving for your retirement. Chances are, it will all be much easier than you anticipated and you will be in a more informed position upon entering college than many of your peers. Practice saving for your retirement during college and file your own taxes each year so that you will gain that experience well before you graduate from school. Even if you use a tax program like TurboTax, the simple act of filing your taxes on your own instead of just giving it to your parents will teach you the basics on how it should be done.
  8. Develop People Skills. College is a vibrant social atmosphere, and also one in which you can establish beneficial professional relationships that may help you in your future career. Before you leave for school to make your first impression on an entire college town, practice your people skills at home. Ask your parents for advice on how to look and behave more presentable and respectable, which they would undoubtedly be glad to tell you. You do not have to necessarily give up your favorite ratty sweatshirt at your mother’s behest in exchange for some bland polos, but you should consider what your parents have to say about how you are presenting yourself. Work on being more inviting, kind, and overall agreeable so that you can get over being shy and make the social connections in college that you have always wanted. In addition, being comfortable around people and being able to make them feel comfortable around you can prepare you for your future job and internship interviews.

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