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College-Bound Students Need to Master Certain Life Skills First

I propose mandatory hands-on classes they must pass, like doing laundry, balancing their checkbooks (online — I know they don’t have actual checkbooks), changing the cartridge on their printers, etc.

Yesterday, I received a stack of unopened mail that was forwarded to me from my son’s mailbox at college. They were all bank statements (balance = $25). When I asked why he didn’t check his mail before he left he said, “Mom, nobody checks their mail.” (giant eye roll) Of course! How prehistoric of me! I’ve had many college students I work with tell me they never check their email either, which accounts for the large percentage of college students who have no idea what their grades are at the end of the semester. This made me think about life skills.

When I was still a classroom teacher, there was a class at the school where I worked that was just for kids with learning disabilities (LD). About once a week, this class went on field trips throughout the community to learn life skills. They visited a supermarket, a bank, McDonalds, and so on. Often a regular education class would accompany them as volunteers. The day my class went was the trip to the Dollar Store, right before Christmas. The LD students had made lists of family members for whom they wanted to buy presents. In addition to the LD students, my students learned to calculate sales tax to make sure they had enough money to buy something, count their change and make a list before going shopping.  

I learned the hard way never to take a fourth-grade class anywhere there are glass flowers and narrow aisles. I always thought these trips were a great idea and should be incorporated into the curriculum for all students.

Now, I’m not addressing why high school graduates don’t have the skill set to make a grilled cheese sandwich, that’s a whole other article. Since that ship has sailed by the time kids are of college age, I think we need to focus on getting them up to speed on various life skills before sending them off. I propose mandatory hands-on classes they must pass, like doing laundry, balancing their checkbooks (online — I know they don’t have actual checkbooks), changing the cartridge on their printers, etc. There should be a test they must pass where they demonstrate life skills in real life environments, much like that field trip, before being allowed to check into their dorms. Of course, that would require parents hanging around, which may impede the process since they may want to perform the life skills for their children (hint: that’s probably what got them there in the first place). To prevent this, parents should be duct taped to their hotel beds until their kid passes the test.

I do know many parents who try to teach life skills to their kids. My boys have been doing their own laundry for years, so I thought my son was all set in that area. I clearly forgot to tell him he needs to wash his clothes and change his sheets, since they walked themselves into our washing machine when he got home. Or, more likely, I did tell him and he just didn’t do it. It is my hope that, by teaching life skills before kids go to school, it may cut down on the 1,000+ texts in the first month asking why the bank says they have no money when they still have checks, if it’s okay to Febreze instead of doing laundry and how to refill their acne prescriptions.

Lisa Kaplin June 16, 2012 at 11:38 PM
What a nice article (and idea). I think most parents work on teaching their children life skills but it's awfully helpful when those skills are taught and reinforced by others. I'll take all the help I can get.
Dr. Mark Solomon June 17, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Susan, I like that idea too. In addition, how about selling Survivor - College Edition to the networks: Competion between Freshman to survive their 1st semester in College and between parents to survive their first child going away to College. I'm in!
Stuart Tindall June 18, 2012 at 11:16 AM
In middle school we had a mandatory semester of HomeEc. It got us up to basic competency and encouraged some of us to take cooking seriously.
Susan Schaefer June 18, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I'm in!

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