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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Before the Move to College 

By Rebecca Hastings

My son looked at me with dread in his eyes. He needed to find out about driver’s education classes, and there was minimal information on the website. I smiled and told him he needed to call them. He wasn’t sure what to do, what to say, or what to ask. He didn’t want to make the call, but he needed to.

As kids approach adulthood, there are things you can do to help them feel confident. From simple things like phone calls to more complex skills like financial planning, you can help your child prepare for college and more.

Life Skills

Cook simple meals: Yes, they will probably have a meal plan if they go away to college. But knowing how to make a few meals will help them far beyond their college years. Include them in food preparation: Following recipes, measuring, and prepping ingredients.

Transfer healthcare: While you have been responsible for every aspect of their healthcare, they need to learn how to navigate their health: Making appointments, checking in, and sharing insurance information. Give them a chance to answer questions at doctor’s appointments and give them one-on-one time with the doctor. Letting go of the control in this area can feel hard, but the more you equip them to handle these things the easier it will be when they get sick and are away from home.

Run errands: Things that seem simple to us can be challenging for teens because they haven’t done them before. Give them a chance to run errands like grocery shopping or pumping gas. Even having them take the car in for an oil change or bring the dog to the groomer so they learn how to interact with service providers independently is helpful toward college and adulthood.

Self-care: This isn’t about relaxing or taking time for yourself, although that is a helpful thing to model and teach. This is about teaching your child things like hygiene, laundry, making a bed, wiping down counters, cleaning out the fridge, getting rest and exercise, and even managing time. While it is nice to do these things for them sometimes, make that the exception. In life, it is not typical for someone else to handle these things. Teach them how to do it now and they will be much better off down the road.

Financial Skills

Open a bank account: If children are under 18, you will need to be on the account with them but many banks offer student accounts that can be opened as young as 15 and used until their early to mid-20s. Get an account with a debit card and teach them how it works as well as how to monitor spending.

Pay bills: Kids need to learn how to pay bills on time. Even if they don’t have any official bills, teach them to contribute to their expenses such as cell phone or car insurance bills on a certain day each month.

Plan spending and saving: Have regular conversations about spending plans. Budgeting can sound intense for many teens, so instead ask questions to get them thinking about upcoming expenses or savings. For example: “I saw that the fair is coming. How much do you plan on spending when you go with your friends?” or “I know you’re hoping to get a computer before college starts. How much do you need to save each month to make that happen?” This will help your child think ahead about how to best use their money.

Learning & Professional Skills

Talk about plans: Have regular conversations about what options are available to your child. If they are going to college, make them part of the process and help them understand the financing. Whether you are paying for school, they are paying for school, or they are utilizing aid, clear communication is essential so they know what they are responsible for now and in the future.

Prepare documents: College requires paperwork. From resumes to applications, essays to scheduling, there are a lot of things to fill out. Let your child fill them out. Yes, you can answer questions. But help them take responsibility for their learning by handling this process. Consider setting aside a weekly time to answer any questions they may have so you both have the time and attention you need for the tasks to be done.

Pay attention to deadlines: The college application process is full of deadlines. Taking tests, sending transcripts, completing admissions and financial applications, and sending deposits all have very specific deadlines. Discuss these with your child and expect them to meet these deadlines. It is helpful to talk about upcoming deadlines together and even ask them to plan time to complete the tasks. Visual and digital reminders will help them stay on track so they meet any upcoming deadlines.

If you give them the opportunity to do these things now when you are available to help if needed, they will feel ready and better equipped to do these things on their own. 

Rebecca Hastings is a published author and former teacher passionate about authenticity, faith, and family. In real life, she can often be found typing words, driving her kids places, or wherever there is chocolate. Connect with her at and on Instagram.