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9 Life Skills You Need to Know Before Starting College

Just because you turn 18 or finish high school doesn’t mean you ready to move out of your parent’s house and live on you own. Unless you’ve been taught the life skills necessary to live in the real world, there’s a good chance you may struggle to be independent.

Here are nine things experts say you should be able to do in order to be a responsible, independent young adult. Can you:

1. Perform Basic Apartment, Dorm Room, or House Maintenance 

It may be annoying to constantly get reminded to pick up your dishes, clothes and books, but these skills go even beyond tidiness. 

Some basic skills are required to keep a home functioning and hospitable. Can you unclog a drain, plunge a toilet, or change a vacuum bag? Do you know how to run the dishwasher? These may seem basic, but it’s worth making sure you know how to do this before you calling your parents at 2 a.m. when you can’t flush the toilet. 

2. Do Your Own Laundry 

This may seem obvious, but regardless of whether you end up in a dorm, apartment, or house, you are going to have to wash your clothes. While we’ve all been known to shrink a sweater every now and then, you should know how to do your own laundry. Clean clothes are half the battle. Can you also iron? Part of being an adult is self-care, and this is one skill that you should be able to easily handle on your own.

3. Manage Your Own Schedule 

Time-management is very important for young adults, especially if they’re headed to college or going into the workforce. You need to be able to arrive on time, plan for study time and/or meetings, and have some time for fun, too. 

4. Make Your Own Appointments 

Whether it’s a doctor, dentist, or job interview, you should be able to set up your own appointments. It sounds simple, but often your parents get into the habit of scheduling on behalf of their kids. 

Picking up the phone, or booking an appointment online, goes back to you being able to manage your schedule and be fully independent. You can still get remind it to visit the dentist or go get a physical, but your schedule should be yours to maintain. And if you’re thinking of setting up an interview, don’t let your parents do it for you. Employers will also want to know that you are self-sufficient and reliable.

5. Generally Navigate Without GPS or Smartphone 

We spend so much time relying on technology to get us from point A to point B, we’re all a bit guilty on this one. But there are going to be times when you need to function without technology. Are you able to get from your dorm to class? Or from their apartment to work? Even if their GPS isn’t working? Do you know how to use the bus, subway or ferry? A basic understanding of how to get where you need to go is crucial for independence.

6. Manage a budget

Whether your parents are still involved in your financials or not, having a basic understanding of budgeting will help set you up for success now and in the future. This includes an understanding of balancing a checkbook (or checking account) and credit if you are using credit cards. Identifying where your income is coming from and how much income you will have is only one part of the equation. What bills are you responsible for, how much are you spending on fun and entertainment, and how much for groceries? And perhaps the biggest question, what will you do if your income is less than their planned spending?

7. Prepare and cook simple meals

You don’t need to be Martha Stewart, but having a basic understanding of how to provide for yourself is a big part of being independent. Smoothies, eggs, salads, and sandwiches are all easy to make and typically healthier than hitting the drive-through. You can’t survive on pizza and soda forever.

8. Solve their own problems

A big part of being independent is the ability to solve your own problems. If you find yourself with a clogged toilet and plunging hasn’t worked, are you able to troubleshoot other options without calling your parents for help? If you fail an exam or turn in a paper late, will you go to the professor and see if you can do additional work to make up the grade? If your boss gave harsh feedback on a project, will you be more prepared next time?

9. Know how to deal with sexual assault on campus.

You need to be equipped with information about what to do if you see an assault happening, or if it happens to you. It is a horrific and terrible part of being at college, but if you tell yourself that it would never happen to you, you’re fooling yourself. You usually know what the right thing is, but you might need help to think through how to do it.

It can seem like a lot of items to master, but if you are showing progress in all of these areas, you’ll be able to fend for yourself.

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