7 Things Your Kid Should Know Before Heading Off to College

The transition from high school to college is often a social, academic, and psychological shock to the system. Your child’s entire lifestyle is changing — they’re being presented with new responsibilities, new dangers, and new levels of pressure.

Think back to that time. Is there anything you wish you knew going into college that you did not? This is your moment to share that wisdom, alongside the topics below, with your high school graduate.

1. How to Practice Safe Sex

College, for many, is the introduction to a whole new level of social relationships. With these experiences come sexual situations that may be unfamiliar to them. This is the time to educate your child on STIs, STI prevention, and using contraception.

Do your best to explain (do your research!) the different methods of contraception and which ones effectively prevent STIs. When should someone use a condom, hormonal birth control, etc., and which methods may be combined? If your child is exposed to an STI, what tests do they need and where can they get them?

2. How to Respect Boundaries

Demonstrate to your children what it means to respect boundaries — both their own and someone else’s. Introduce and explain the importance of consent, the different types, and how to respect it in sexual and non-sexual situations. Finally, teach them how to discern their own boundaries and how to assert them when necessary.

This way, when uncomfortable situations arise, your child will have a better understanding of how to navigate them. They’ll be able to see things through an empathetic lens and ensure they and their friends feel safe. As a result, they will learn to avoid peer pressure and be more receptive to the feelings of others.

3. How to Maintain Good Financial Habits

College provides more independence, and with this comes a ton of new financial responsibility. It can be easy to spend money thoughtlessly when paying for textbooks, dinners, and social activities. Take time to teach your child how to manage their money effectively and prevent overspending.

This includes introducing them to methods of budgeting, saving, and even credit building. Show them how these tactics will make it easier to spend money on what they want in the long run. If you make the benefits clear from the get-go, your tips are more likely to resonate.

4. Their Preferred Learning Style

A student’s preferred learning style is something that often gets ignored in the traditional one-size-fits-all curriculums of American public schools. Before they leave for college, help your child identify their ideal learning style so they can take advantage of it. This way, regardless of how they are taught in class, they may adapt the material to fit their proclivities.

Do they absorb information better when doing or making things rather than listening to lectures? Are they more logically inclined (mathematical) or intuition inclined (creative)? By knowing their strengths and weaknesses, your child can develop specific study techniques to accommodate their learning style.

5. How to Find and Use Resources

A lot of schoolwork will involve your child seeking and citing external sources of information. Unfortunately, not all resources are immediately available — and even more unfortunate, they vary in reliability. A student needs to be able to find and navigate information effectively as well as verify sources.

You could, for example, show them some good websites to rely on for finding academic papers and peer-reviewed studies. You might also reacquaint them with the Dewey decimal system to make library browsing far less intimidating. Finally, you can teach them the student-loved method of using the sources at the bottom of a topic’s Wikipedia page. However, be sure to emphasize that, when using this technique, they’ll need to verify those sources and ensure their authority.

6. School Almost Always Comes First

Naturally, it’s essential to establish that, despite new social opportunities, your child’s education should always come first. That’s the reason they’re at college in the first place — learning this knowledge is crucial for their future. Encourage them to focus on learning over going out with friends. They can always spend time socializing once their educational responsibilities are fulfilled.

There are, of course, situations that might require them to step aside for a bit or focus elsewhere. It could be a family emergency or a personal problem they’re dealing with that may take some time to address. School is important in life but not the most important; sometimes urgent circumstances will require their attention.

7. That It’s OK to Struggle

The increased pressure of college means that mental health issues are common among students. Explain that it’s OK to have bad days, mess up on a test, or miss some assignments. These things happen and aren’t the end of the world. As mentioned before, school is important, but not as important as your mental health.

In fact, poor mental health can directly harm school performance. If your child experiences burnout or needs a break, teach them how to handle these situations. Encourage them to discuss things with professors and get aid when they need it. Urge them to take advantage of their school’s counseling center and other mental health resources. Finally, make it clear that if necessary, taking a break from school is better than failing out of fear.

A new stage of life awaits your child out there in the adult world! This is an exciting time for them and you as they set out on a larger journey toward their future. It never hurts to be prepared, of course, and that’s where these tips come in. By preparing your soon-to-be college student, you can be confident your child will be ready for the world ahead.