Monday, March 8, 2010

Getting Ready for College (and life)

A while back Eldest asked, "But what if I'm not ready for college?"

I was pleased she'd thought of that her own. My reply: "Honey, nobody's ready. Some people aren't ready in one way, and others aren't ready in others. Believe me, there are some 18-year old boys who will never be ready! The question is whether or not the ways in which you're not ready will be a problem."

I have a long 'get Eldest ready for college' list. I'm assuming we won't get through it all before it's time to deliver her to school, and that's okay. Some things she will learn simply from being there, or from other people. Some she may (like the rest of us) stagger along without. But here's what I have so far:

Mundane Things to Tell Her:
- buy your sanitary supplies before you run out
- you can buy a new nail clipper at any drug store
- lock the door when you leave (practice for several months in advance)
- salad will keep in the fridge if you haven't already put dressing on it, but fruit will go bad if you leave it in your room too long
- a batch of brownies is good for making friends and soothing tensions
- how often you laugh is a pretty good gauge of how healthy (or depressed) you are
- the long-term success rate for first-semester freshman-year romances is zero
- you probably won't feel completely at home at school until after Christmas break
- your homesickness will fade as you make good friends and college starts to feel like home.
- don't do anything  you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the New York Post

Practical Life Skills:
- how to write a check and balance a checkbook and pay your bills on time
- how to know if you need to go to a doctor when Mom isn't there to tell you to go
- how to get out of doing ______ when others are doing it and you don't want to and can no longer say, "My mom won't let me"
- simple diplomacy for dealing with difficult dorm-mates and unpleasant professors
- basic cooking, hygiene, sewing, housekeeping, laundry, budgeting, manners. Really basic.
- how to self-monitor screen time when Mom isn't there to kick you off the computer
- the cardinal rules of drinking: eat before and during, imbibe slowly, and have plenty of water (and a Tylenol) before going to bed (she thinks she's never going to drink, but still...)

Essential Life Skills:
- having the courage to ask for help when you need it
- knowing how to bounce back from stupid mistakes and errors in judgment
- remembering to balance fun and work
- resourcefulness in solving logistical problems
- perseverence in advocating for yourself 
- having some idea of the kinds of 'down time' you need in your life to keep from getting too stressed
- knowing how to set healthy boundaries
- knowing how to cripple a 250-pound man
- knowing how to calm yourself from a panic

- understanding that there's no shame in changing your mind. Being wise enough to see that you made a mistake is a good thing (as long as you're willing to change and move on).
- remembering that when you've forgotten some of the above and have blown it and are sure Mom will be deeply disappointed in you, that she will love you and help you anyway.

I just noticed I don't have any academic skills on the list at all. Oops!


  1. 1. Great list! There are items I'm not sure I really have down yet (balancing fun and work, for instance).

    2. Brownies? Ahem.

    3. I went to the drugstore the other day and asked the guy in the front for directions to the "sanitary supplies." He looked blankly at me, and then "...uh... bandaids?"

  2. Great list.

    Though I cracked a smile at "- the long-term success rate for first-semester freshman-year romances is zero"

    Although this is almost universally true, my wife and I met at a freshman mixer two weeks into our first semester -- got married a month after graduating, four years later. So maybe 0.01% :-)