The point is not to overload them, but to help them get ready for the next complicated, exciting, and challenging stage in their education. By the way, I also teach upperclassmen, and they all tell me that while they wished they had known more about college before leaving home, the support and love of their families has given them the strength to figure things out as they go along. That’s ultimately what’s most important.
How money works For every student I’ve met who has a job, there are three more who don’t really understand how much money they’ve borrowed to attend college, and how long it will take to pay it back. They should understand this, as well as how credit works, how much money they have to spend per semester, and why having a budget is a good idea.
How to deal with illnesses I’m always amazed by how quickly students get sick in college (all those germs, and none of that sleep, is my guess) and how often their first response is to turn to the nearest “real” adult for help. But while I and many of my colleagues will do our best, we’re not really on campus to evaluate fevers or suggest over-the-counter medicines. Students need to learn how to care for themselves when they are ill, and where to get help from a medical professional when they need it.
How to manage homesickness Few students make good friends on the first day, or even in the first month, and managing the stress that comes with college/adult life is hard. Instead of wishing that your kids will be happy, teach them that they will face sad and lonely times, far away from home and the familiar, and that they have the inner resources to cope with their homesickness. Too many of my students think that “everyone else” loves college and that they alone are having a hard time. It’s just not true.
How to deal with sexual assault on campus. All kids need to be equipped with information about what to do if they see it happening, or if it happens to them. It is a horrific and terrible part of being at college, but if you tell yourself that your kid knows what to do and won’t do that even though you’ve never discussed it, you’re fooling yourself. Teenagers usually know what the right thing is, but they need help to think through how to do it.
How to use their manners Make sure they know the basics: How to send a polite email to a professor. To hold the door to the library open for the person behind them. To say “thank you” to the cafeteria workers. Most campuses are villages, and word gets around pretty quickly about who’s pleasant and who’s not.