Getting into college is hard work! On top of working really hard to get good grades in school, you’ve had to fill out applications, get transcripts, and write extra essays! Sometimes that’s just the beginning… To be successful in college you also need all kinds of independent living skills that are rarely taught in school. Here are five quick tips (that you may not learn in school) to help you get ready for college:
1) Learn how to keep track of money. Do you know how to write a check? Check the balance of your bank account? Use an ATM? Understand the terminology associated with banking (like “overdraft” and “service fee”)? You can practice this with your parents several months before you will be on your own. Ask your mom or dad to let you watch them as they pay the bills each month or use their online checking accounts. Go with your parents to the bank to make deposits. Ask your parent what kind of system they use to keep track of the finances and ask if they will teach it to you. Open up your own account and begin to practice the skills you have learned.
2) Start using a calendar. Once you are in college you’ll need to keep track of your own appointments and schedule—and sometimes it will change every day! That can be a lot to remember (especially if you have to also remember doctor’s appointments, bus schedules, and your social life!). Start practicing using a calendar system early on in high school. Many people use electronic calendars, which they can access on their phones or the computer, but many still prefer a paper system. Try out each one for a few weeks to see which you like better! Practice by writing down your class schedule, any homework assignments, and social engagements you may have.
3) Develop healthy living habits. When you move out of your parent’s house it can be tempting to play video games, watch TV, and eat cereal all day long—but that won’t be fun forever! Research has shown that having a consistent exercise routine can help with so many things (like getting good sleep, good grades, living longer and staying fit!). Many times students in high school have healthy lifestyles merely by participating in their everyday activities (like PE class and sports teams). In order to remain healthy in college, begin practicing developing healthy living habits outside of school. Perhaps take your dog for a walk, take a run around the neighborhood or visit the local park and play a game of tennis or basketball!
4) Know your way around the kitchen. A lot of the fun of transitioning to independence can be getting to make your own decisions, but sometimes making those decisions can be overwhelming—we think that’s why so many college students end up eating cereal for every meal! If there are particular foods that you like eating at home, ask for the recipe or a lesson in how to make it. Learn the different tools you’ll need in the kitchen and how to use each of them (for example, when do you use the microwave instead of the oven or toaster or toaster oven!?) Sometimes kitchen tools are tricky and can even be dangerous, so make sure you always learn from someone who has some experience in the kitchen!
5) De-clutter your space. If you plan on moving out when you go to college, chances are, you’ll have a roommate. For many, this is the first time a room has to be shared and it can be REALLY tough! Hint: begin practicing good roommate habits while you are still living with your parents. Learn how to use basic cleaning supplies, like a vacuum, broom, mop, or duster. Make sure you also know how to do laundry! Ask a parent if you can help them the next time they clean the house and make sure you ask lots of questions. Keeping your space neat and organized is an important part of being a good roommate, plus it helps if you want to invite over new friends!
Stay tuned for more tips on preparing for college and don’t forget to check out Advance LA’s Summer College Institute—a program designed to help students build skills for college. For more information, see: www.advancela.org or call Rachel Round, Program Coordinator at Advance LA at (818) 397-8407.
Contributed by: Rachel Round, M.A., Advance LA Program Coordinator
Edited by: Amy Jane Griffiths, PhD, Director of Advance LA