8 Basic Life Skills Every New College Student Must Have

College is a time for self-exploration, new discoveries and freedom — and your daughter is probably counting down the days until it begins. Before she leaves, bring your teen back down to earth by providing a few skills that will reduce the number of embarrassing situations, social mistakes and traumatic experiences she could have when she’s out on her own.

basic life skills for college students

Save Lives

She may not be headed to med school, but that doesn’t mean your daughter can’t be prepared to save a life if the opportunity arises. Before sending your teen to college, enroll her in a first aid class. Young adults should be able to gauge serious situations and know how to handle them. For example, if someone is choking, the Red Cross suggests these four steps:

  • Send someone to call 9-1-1
  • Give five back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand
  • Give five abdominal thrusts by placing your fist just above the person’s navel
  • Repeat

Teach your teen these life skills, or contact your local Red Cross and attend a class with her.

Provide Peace of Mind

Nearly 700,000 college students are victims of assault by other intoxicated students, according to the University of Oregon. Prepare your teen for potentially dangerous situations by enrolling him or her in a self-defense course.

Prevention approaches that focus on self-defense can lower the risk of your young adult becoming the victim of sexual violence or similar crimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While you cannot control factors related to a criminal or the actions of bystanders, you can teach your teenager to avoid certain dangerous situations.

Much Ado About Cars

Before she’s out on his own, your teen should know a few basic car skills. Discuss the elements of a car that your teenager will want before making a purchase. Teach her how to walk into a nice Nissan dealership with a solid idea of the ideal college car and how to haggle for the best price. That confidence will prevent her from accidentally purchasing a car for an exorbitant fee or getting suckered into buying a car that isn’t appropriate for a college lifestyle.

Teach your teen a few basic maintenance skills, including:

  • How to change a tire
  • How to change the oil
  • How to identify the appropriate time for maintenance work

Focus on Attire

First impressions are often based around appearances, so give your teen a few pointers about dressing for different occasions. For example, explain the difference between business formal or business casual attire in the workplace. A survey by CareerBuilder.com stated that 93 percent of executives pay attention to clothing and professional attire when it is time to decide on promotions, according to California Polytechnic State University. Discuss clothing selection and appropriate ways to pick an outfit for different occasions so your teen is not lost when it is time for interviews.

A Desire to Learn

The discipline for self-education is a skill that’s essential throughout life, so ensure that your teen has a desire to learn. Give her study tips that worked when you were in college. Your teen will thank you for the advice when it is time for tests, as well as when she applies those tips to other areas of her life.

Good Manners

Before you send your teen off to college, teach her to write a thank you note or take a compliment graciously. Good manners can pave the way to getting along well with other students, teachers, employers and pretty much everyone she interacts with for the rest of her life.

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Ten to Twenty Parenting was created as an honest resource for those of us parenting kids between the ages of 10 and 20. Our needs are so different and the issues much more complex than diaper rashes and playground tantrums.


  1. Kari says

    This is a great post! I would love to see something similiar concerning rising high school students. My oldest is heading into her freshmen year and and I am clueless! Thank you for this blog!

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