Yes! You’re finally headed off to college. Your first real taste at freedom and independence. However, with great freedom also comes great responsibility. What are you going to eat every day? How does a laundry machine work? How do you pay your bills? Read on and master these 20 essential life skills to have before leaving for college.
1. Learn How to Do Laundry
You may have lucked out with your mom or dad doing your laundry until now, but in college, you’ll have to manage cleaning your own clothes. Your college dorm will have laundry rooms for you to use. If you’re not in a dorm, there will be a few laundromats in the area. As it turns out, doing laundry is actually pretty easy. If you can learn how to do it before leaving for home, great. If not, this video can give you a quick and easy rundown: Don’t forget to separate your whites from your colors!
2. Know How to Cook
Basic cooking is a skill that everyone should possess. It may seem boring or difficult, but the basics are actually super easy – and if you are living in an apartment without a meal plan, developing basic cooking skills is really a necessity. For example, you will be amazed at how easy it is to make scrambled eggs or pasta. If your budget allows it, you can order in, or eat out on campus, but it’s healthiest and cheapest to make your own meals. Choose a few meals you love and learn how to cook them. If you’re still lost, you will have lots of new friends who can show you a recipe or two. Cooking a communal meal with friends can be a fun activity when you have the time. If you need some inspiration, here are 30 easy meals you can make with just an oven and stove. Pro tip: cook large batches of food over the weekend to save you time for studying during the week.
Most teenagers aren’t financially independent before going off to college. You might still be getting help from your parents when you are in college, but you’ll have more freedom with spending money. It’s smart to set a budget for yourself so you know how much you can spend on groceries, school expenses, and fun. You can use an app like Mint to help you stay on top of your budget. The last thing you want to do is end up with a big debt.
4. Have a Bank Account
Managing your own bank account is as “adulting” as it gets. College might be the first time that you open a bank account on your own. You should know how to use the ATM to take out money AND if you are working part-time, it is also important to know how to deposit checks as well. Many banks now offer mobile deposit, enabling you to deposit checks on the go, without stepping foot near an ATM! If you plan to get a credit card, use it responsibly and pay your bills on time so that you build a good credit score.
5. Balance Work and Fun
You’ll probably have tons of fun in college, during welcome week and beyond. You might be tempted to go out pretty much every night of the week. There are plenty of opportunities to socialize and make memories, but it’s important to stay focused on your main goal, to get a degree! Figuring out the balance between working hard and having fun is a skill you’ll take with you for the rest of your life.
6. Keep an Organized Space
All those years of your parents nagging you to clean your room might finally pay off in college. Keeping your room organized, making your bed, and having a neat study area is so important for productivity. If the organization doesn’t come easy for you, here are several things you can do to get started:
- Write lists of tasks you need to do
- Purge clothes you don’t wear
- Use shelves to keep books organized
- Have a place for everything so you don’t misplace them
- Make your bed every morning → One good habit leads into the next
7. Time Management
Learning how to manage your time efficiently is a skill that can quite literally save you time. You will have a busy schedule in college, especially during finals week. It’s important that you know how to split your time between all your responsibilities. Learn how to prioritize so that you tackle the more important tasks first. You can use a planner to write down your schedule and tasks, or an app like Google Calendar. If your phone is distracting you, put it on silent or turn it off.
8. Basic Sewing
If the button falls off of your shirt, you don’t need to throw away the shirt. You simply need to learn how to fix it. Having some basic sewing skills under your belt can be very helpful. You may just turn into your dorm hall’s seamstress!
9. Get Familiar with the Gym
Exercise has tons of benefits for both your physical and mental health. College is a lot of brain work, and stress, so going to work out can be the perfect release. There are lots of things you can do in the gym such as cardio, weights, dance classes, yoga, squash, racquetball, and more. Getting acquainted with the gym early can help you get a feel for which activities you like best. It can also help you learn how to do them safely, as sometimes things like lifting weights can cause injuries.
10. Iron a Shirt
We know this is college, but there are times you will want to look presentable. The last thing you want is to show up to an interview or formal event with a wrinkled shirt. Learn how to use an iron so that you make a good impression right away.
11. Cleaning your living space
One basic life skill no one ever tells you about is that you need to keep your living space clean. Things like dirty dishes in the sink, or garbage that has been left out too long can create some nasty problems in your life. Old dishes in the sink, for example, can spread bacteria and germs around your living space, which can then cause stomach problems. Not taking the garbage out can also spread bacteria and germs. It can also cause your living space to stink, and be infested with flies and other insects. You could pay someone to clean your house, but a much more economical solution is to create a weekly schedule of when to do which chores. If you are not sure how to do something, just Google it. You’ll find it’s pretty easy with the right supplies. Not only that, cleaning up can be a nice break from studying, and might even make you feel like you accomplished something when you finish.
12. Take Public Transportation
You may not be going to college in a big city, but even many colleges are big enough to have their own bus system. It’s helpful to know how to take buses on your own. Google Maps is a godsend and can easily help you get from point A to point B. If you are going to college in a city that has a subway system, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with that as well.
13. Maintain Good Hygiene
You’ve hopefully been maintaining healthy practices, like brushing your teeth and showering for your whole life. But now that you’re living away from Mom and Dad, you might be tempted to throw your healthy habits out the window. Please take care of yourself, if not only for yourself, then for your roommates as well. Wash your hair and body, brush your teeth, and clean your hands after using the bathroom. Be sure to use deodorant daily, and reapply after exercise.
14. How to take care of your health
Everybody should know what to do when they are sick or injured, not only students pursuing a degree in medicine. Learn the differences between various over-the-counter medications, how to treat minor wounds, and when it’s time to see a doctor. Don’t let nagging colds and infections linger, instead go see a doctor. It also wouldn’t hurt to know CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. A DIY first aid kit with some band-aids, hydrogen peroxide, pain relievers, and cold medicine is a good idea to have in your room.
15. Care for Your Mental Health
Living on your own for the first time, and dealing with the stress in college can wreak havoc on your mental health. It’s so important that you carve out time to do things for yourself. This means getting enough sleep every night, exercising, and doing what you need to destress. For some this might mean meditation, for others it might be a run outside or a coffee date with a friend.
If you have been feeling down for a while, make sure you take care of yourself. According to Statista, over 41% of college students report having talked to a therapist before. College is the ideal time to talk to a therapist for the first time if you haven’t before. You can discover more low-effort self-care tips here.
16. Set Goals
Setting goals gives you motivation, helps you stay focused, and makes you more productive with your time. If you know what you want to work in after college, use the time until then to gain relative experience and take classes in that particular field. Your short-term goals may include getting a summer internship or participating in a research project. Set goals that are realistic and achievable. Don’t be afraid to change your goals along the way if they no longer suit you.
17. Pay Bills
When you’re living on your own, you’ll be responsible for paying your bills. Have a physical or digital folder for each expense you have, such as electricity, rent, car insurance, and phone bills. That can come in super handy if there are ever any disputes. Make sure you pay your bills on time so the internet connection doesn’t get cut off.
18. Write a Professional Letter
You may be a great texter, but that’s not going to come in handy when you’re trying to write an email to a potential employer. You need to know how to professionally address teachers and prospective employers. And for everybody’s sake, leave the emojis out.