Summer is half done; maybe a bit more for some that are heading off to college. There has to be mixed emotions occurring in many households as children prepare to head off to further their education at college or a technical school. While this is a completely natural and hoped for experience, it can bring about a load of emotions. Aside from the emotions, good or bad, there are several important things to consider when sending children to college.
Preparing them for college doesn't take as much money as you might think. They already have most of what they need. There are other preparations often forgotten that may be more important in the long run than providing material things. In addition to material things, your child needs to learn skills necessary to live independently. You can help them learn these skills before they leave. It is better for them to learn and make mistakes while they are still under your roof than suffer more severe consequences of bad choices after they leave.
Helping your child prepare for living on his/her own at college can cost whatever you want to spend.
Make lists of what to bring. You will probably be pleasantly surprised that most of what is already needed is currently available such as clothes, toiletry supplies, maybe even extra household furniture pieces. Over-the-counter medicines are costly adding up in a hurry if buying them, so review your current supply and place basic or often used medicines in a first aid kit for your college-bound student to take. In addition, send enough shampoo, soap, laundry soap, and other toiletry items to last for a semester which will help reduce the cost as well.
Remember important dates. Set your student up for success to remember birthdays, send thank yous, or even sympathy cards when it is appropriate. Use a calendar to identify birthdays, pre-purchase cards, and include addresses and stamps.
Skip the computer. We have all learned to depend on computers, however, purchasing one special for college may be a luxury rather than a true needed expense. Check with the university or college about the availability of computers to the students. This may be an expense that can be put off for later if the institute will provide quality computers with easy access.
Skip the car, too. This comment isn't going to score any points with college-bound students, but an undergraduate probably does not need a car. We have learned to depend on a vehicle more than we should; unless your college student is living away from campus, they can probably walk wherever they need to go. Plus, others will have a car and when they really need to get somewhere, could probably get a ride. Without a vehicle, college students don't have to worry about parking, car maintenance and other expenses that accompany a vehicle.
Page 2 of 3 - Does your child know how to cook? It's never too late to teach them the basics such as oven and stove use, how to follow basic cooking instructions (like on a box of macaroni and cheese), and how to prepare some simple meals and a couple of their favorite meals. Help them understand there is a difference between baking soda and baking powder and between bleached flour, self-rising flour and bread flour. A great website with healthy, easy to cook recipes is www.kidsacookin.org, which features more than 80 recipes in breads, main meals, snacks and vegetables. Teach them ideas on using food before it spoils. Whatever they can learn before college will make things easier for them when they are on their own.
Can they shop effectively? Do they know how much to buy and how to shop sales? Have them help you with shopping before they go to college. Have them try store brands and national brands to see if they can tell a difference. Help them figure out how much they can save by using store brands. If they want to eat out, have them call around to see if the restaurants have specials on certain days. Have them do comparison shopping between stores and realize that by going to a less expensive store, they can save 20 percent or more.
Can they stay within a budget? Do they know how to live within their income? Have them track their spending for one week. Many college students spend more than $20 a week on drinks between classes. They need to learn basic money management skills. Do they know how to use a checkbook? Do they know how to balance it? Do they understand the consequences of bouncing a check? Do they really understand ATM fees and know to record withdrawals in their checkbook? Can they read between the lines when they receive offers for credit cards and other contracts and understand what the fine print means?
Do they know how to do laundry? They need to learn simple things such as separating laundry into whites and colors. They need to learn to read care labels to see what water temperatures are appropriate for different types of clothing. They need to learn how to use a washer and dryer and remember to clean the lint screen of the dryer after each load. They need to learn how much laundry soap to use, the importance of stain removers and bleach, and how to use them. They need to know how to iron their own clothes.
Stay out of debt. Any young people go off to college and get themselves into extraordinary amounts of debt. Children need to learn that mom and dad are not going to bail them out whenever they get themselves into trouble. It would be wise to make sure they have the skills to survive on their own and to be aware of the traps out there that can snare them if they are not careful. By preparing our children both with the proper material things and necessary skills, our troop can be prepared to leave the coop.
Page 3 of 3 - Good luck with this major change in your life. Have patience with yourself and remember, when you miss your child, go see them. Take them to lunch, call them, write them, let them know that you love them and care about them. They'll be glad to hear from you and what college student doesn't like a free meal?
Jana McKinney is a McPherson County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences