Adulting, career, college, life skills, parenting, Parenting teens and young adults, parenting young adults

Helping Them Navigate the Waters When They Go Away to College


Most of us think of college as a place to go earn a degree that will help us demand a higher salary.  There are, however, a few lessons that are not taught in the classroom.   You, as the parent, might be able to lessen the shock by including some of these points in a conversation before move in day.

Food does not magically appear in the refrigerator

Many parents are so thoughtful and efficient that their children have never experienced the catastrophe of pouring a bowl of cereal only to find out that there is no milk.

Clean underwear do not march into your drawers

Doing laundry might seem like an easy task when the washer and dryer are conveniently located next to your bedroom.  If you have never hoisted a basket of clothes down 3 flights of stairs while remembering to bring soap, softener and quarters only to find out that there is a line to use the washer, then you haven’t lived!  Plan ahead to avoid the trauma of running out of clean underwear and other key wardrobe items.

Nobody will be there to make sure you make it to class and nobody really CARES if you go at all

If you fail to wake up in time, there is no one to remind you to get to class on time.   Nobody at school cares.  The college gets their tuition regardless of class attendance. In fact, if the class must be repeated, they get ANOTHER round of tuition!

The cafeteria lady doesn’t care if you like the food

While mom might be a short order cook, the cafeteria lady is not likely to be so accommodating.  Learn to be open minded about the food that is offered.  If you just can’t eat it, learn to LOVE ramen noodles!

The cleaning lady is on sabbatical

I know of one young lady who was so surprised that her roommate was always cleaning the floor.   Because her own mom cleaned so thoroughly and discreetly, she just never realized that floors get dirty and couldn’t understand why her dorm floor needed to be cleaned so often.  I’m guessing she wasn’t too popular with her roommate!

Roommates can be very inconvenient

Many current day kids do not have to share a room with siblings.  As a result, they’re cheated out of adaptive opportunities such as trying to sleep with the light on or while Nocturnal Ned is watching TV, talking on the phone, or God forbid, vacuuming!

Showers do not come with limitless hot water or instant availability

At home you might be able to wake up with just enough time to skid into the shower, get dressed, then bolt out the door.  Not so fast when you share a bathroom with roommates.  There might actually be a line for the shower so you have to plan for extra time.  If you’ve ever taken a shower using gallons 41-50 of a 40-gallon tank, you quickly learned Shower Strategy.  The rules vary; either find out everyone else’s shower schedule and adapt yours as needed OR get up first to ensure you get gallons 1-10!

All of the items listed above probably seem obvious to those of us who have experienced them.  Sharing some of your own experiences with your college student might be a fun way to relive your glory days in college or in the military.  You may come up with a story of the roommate from hell that you had blocked out until I forced you to remember!  Anyway, these are just a few of the lessons that, if discussed in advance, will make the transition a little easier.


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