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Preparing your Child for College

Students relaxing in dorm room

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H. 

Like me, you might be preparing to send your oldest child to college next fall. As I navigate my way through my daughter’s senior year, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve prepared her well for life at college. Surely there are nuggets of information I have failed to share with her over the years that she will need to know. So, I began doing what most parents do when they need advice, I asked other parents who have already been down this road. Specifically, I asked about what skills or information teens need before going to college. It seems as though most answers fell into the following three categories:

Independent living skills/self care:

  • How to do laundry, clean, and cook
  • How to protect oneself (personal safety, safe sex, getting enough sleep)
  • How to make their own doctor appointments and how to pay for them (make sure they have all the cards –insurance, dental, flexible spending – they will need before they go)

Management of:

  • Money
  • Time
  • Stress
  • Things (organizational skills)

Social/emotional health:

  • How to make new friends
  • How to live with a roommate (for some this may be a new experience)
  • How to deal with failure/stress (failure may be new to some, so encourage your child to utilize the psychological services on campus)
  • Family communication (how often? when? how?) Be careful not to rely solely on texting. It is important to hear their voice or see their face once in a while to determine how things are really going. It is difficult to read emotions through texts!

There may be other “nuggets” they need, but these are a good start. At the very least, they should encourage some conversations. Your teen probably has many questions about leaving home for the first time, so now is a good time to start talking if you haven’t done so already.

Best of luck to both you and your college bound teen – it is an exciting time!

Resource: School Success: The College Transition University of Minnesota Extension

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at


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