Summer – time to prep for the transition to college.


For most families summer means a change of pace from the normal routine that has been part of their school year. If this is the final summer before a student starts college then it will be a particularly exciting time of planning. For those moving to dorm rooms there will be decisions to make about what to bring and anticipation and probably some anxiety about what will happen in the fall.

This is a great time for families to ensure that their students are receiving the level of practice they need to be successfully independent with the day-to-day life skills that will be necessary as college students. Is the student responsible for getting herself up, taking her own medicine; is the student doing his own laundry, remembering to maintain his personal hygiene routine? The summer before college begins is the right time for families to be making sure these life skills are well-practiced.


Summer is also a good time to have a student practice making and keeping their own doctor’s appointment. Often, students are still reliant on a parent/guardian to take care of these kind of details for them. As they transition into adulthood, being mindful of their own medical care is an important aspect of staying healthy, particularly if the student requires medication, or has a health concern that requires monitoring.


Summer is also an excellent time to practice grocery shopping and fixing a few simple meals. Many dormitory buildings now have common kitchen areas where students can make a meal to share with friends or to enjoy alone when they need a change from cafeteria food. Having the practice of shopping for ingredients and preparing a few such meals is another life skill that will continue to benefit the student; it may also provide an opportunity for the student to make food to share with new friends – a positive way of creating social connections with others. When I was a college student my two best friends and I used to greatly enjoy getting together for simple meals, a time to relax, de-stress, and enjoy each other’s company without needing to spend a lot of money or travel.


Associated with shopping and cooking of course, is the practice of doing dishes. Even students who have little interest in cooking should have the practice of preparing a meal or snack for themself and then cleaning up in a timely manner after themself. Many students will transition through a time of shared space in either dormitory or apartment life. Without the practice of maintaining the communal living space in a mutually acceptable way to others, they will inevitably engage in conflicts. This implies that the student also recognizes when chores like vacuuming and floor washing are necessary and responds appropriately.


Finally, don’t forget to make sure students have practice sorting and washing their own laundry, including their bed linen and towels. If a student is a low impact clothing user – i.e. they live in six tee shirts and a couple of pair of jeans – then they might be able to get by doing one load of laundry a week. It will also be very noticeable to their professors and peers that they are not doing a load of laundry when those few ‘go-to’ outfits start to smell of body and food odor. Ironically, sometimes students can be very aware of odor other than their own, without realizing that their own aroma is starting to offend people. These are conversations that families should have with a student before the student is expected to transition to college and the student should have ample opportunity for hands on practice of maintaining their own clean clothing.

Summer is a great time for creating opportunities to practice life skills that a student may not have had time to polish during the more hectic school year. These opportunities can be combined with other events that a family has planned; in fact, practicing taking medicine without reminders, maintaining personal hygiene, keeping track of one’s own laundry needs – these skills can all be practiced during vacations and other family outings.

family summer

Even if a family’s time continues to be very scheduled, it is important to create opportunities to assist the future college first year student in being prepared with the adequate life skills they will use. Remember, the more practice a student has being independent before the new school year starts, the more likely they are to be able to successfully navigate the anxiety of transitioning to a new set of expectations.


3 thoughts on “Summer – time to prep for the transition to college.

  1. Reblogged this on Transitions and A Medically Complex Child and commented:
    Why did the system not catch up with Jonny. Jonny is the sweetest 17-year-old I have ever met. Jonny has a few friends and genuinely cares for others. He love people and people love him. Jonny’s parents are educated. Jonny’s parents are good people. Jonny has good teacher.

    During the summer of 2012, Jonny’s pediatrician told his mom that Jonny would never be able to oversee his own medical care. Jonny has no specific medical disorder and thus there is not much to oversee. Jonny; however, does have a learning disability. A learning disability that all are aware of. A learning disability that has not impacted his healthy. You see – Jonney is healthy. However, Jonny has challenges that will impact his abilty to care for his own medical needs. Did not Jonny’s pediatrician see this prior to age 17? His mother now has 8 months to research and decide on guardianship status prior to agee 18. She has 8 months before Jonny is in control of his own medical care.

    Jonny had received special education services since 3rd grade. Jonny learned. He progressed each year with his academic skills. He can read-some. He can do math-some. The problems is no one mentioned to mom that he might need support after age 18, after high school, for the rest of his life. Yes, she knew he was behind but did she really understand how far? Important information had been lost. Support was provided but information was not recieved.

    Jonny cannot or has not every really solved a problem. He has friends, they help when he asks. Jonny has great teachers, they love him and help when he asks. Jonny has a cell phone and has tons of text support. “Mom – Can’t find my homework?” “Dad-Where are my jeans?” “Jill-When is lunch?” His text history is rich with the information of his success. His strength. You see – Jonny is great at asking for help. He is great at listening and following directions. Jonny panics if someone is not around to answer those questions. He panics if life problems are not solved for him. How did Jonny get to 17 years of age and no one catch this problem. Everyone is quick to blame. Jonny has fallen through the cracks in the systems set up to support him.

    Jonny has a limited diet. He eats 18 foods. Ten purchased from different restaurants. He brings his own food to friends homes. Several even clear out a space in their fridge for him. Jonny is tall, Jonny is fit. Eighteen Foods! Jonny has a great family system. They had no clue how to help Jonny with this eating differences. I fou9nd out that around age ten, they decided family mealtime had to stop being a battle. For ten years they fought, for ten years they tried. Listening to all they tried made my heart ache. But still Jonny had eighteen foods. One kind of green bean, one kind of chip, one cookie, one brand of hot dog, one-one-one.

    Jonny had one chore. He took out the trash. He could cook one thing-Mac and Cheese. He did not know how to do his laundry, did not know how to fill a dishwasher or wash dishes by hand. He did not know how to use a can opener, make a bed, vacuum or clean a restroom. He took a shower on Saturdays. He skiped the shower if the shampoo was missing. He had been told to always use shampoo. So…no Shampoo, no shower. Seemed logical to Jonny. Jonny disliked shopping and thus wears what mom buys. She know what he likes, sport shorts and T-shirts.

    Jonny is the youngest of several. Jonny is 10 years younger than his next oldest sibling. Siblings have always been around to help Jonny. They all have his number and regularly support him. It’s just the way things developed. All new Jonny struggled. All helped. But Jonny is now seventeen. Times flys by so quickly.

    I met Jonny (name changed) and his mom at a transitional conference in 2011. She was in full fledge educational mode. She had been blind sided and never understood the depth of Jonny’s challenges until his seventeen year old well check at 17 years 4 months. She was sweet, elegant and eager to please. She did not blame. She understood things needed to get done quickly and blaming was not going to help fill in the gaps. The system did not mean to omit Jonny. Jonny had just happened to progress, to pass from grade to grade, to blend into the backgroud. He is the kind of kid people want to help. That one strength became his greatest downfall.

    I asked Debra what she was going to focus on during Jonny’s Junior and Senior years. Problem Solving and Self Care. How was Jonny going to grow into a young twenty something if he could not problem solve? How was he going to survive and live if he could only cook one food, would not enter a clothing store and only knew how to take out the trash? A family meeting had been called. A school meeting had been called. All were now on the same page. Every time siblings got a text, the response was “what do you think Jonny” or “Jonny tell me what you think you should do” and then a message was sent to mom. Chores were asigned. Support provided only when needed. Jonny only had a few years to learn some very important skills.

    Why am I thinking of Jonny. Stem College blogged the following. And I am reblogging for all the special needs parnet out in the world. Special needs kids need to learn to problem solve and work on basic self-care. Kids with learning challenges take longer to learn, they need repetition and real-life learning experiences. The more they experience prior to that last summer, the more possibilites may await them. These kids can learn. Kids with learning challenges can get jobs, recieve education after high school. They can, Yes they can.

    Please World-Be honest with us.
    Do not wait until our child is seventeen.
    Help us open our eyes and understand.
    Help us, to them them.
    We may bark but will seldome bit.
    Support us but let’s keep it real.

  2. Pingback: Jonny – A boy who almost fell through the cracks of the systems | Transitions and A Medically Complex Child

  3. You make a really important point – these life skills are skills all famlies should be working on – not waiting until a student is necessarily going to college. What makes any person feel more comfortable doing a task – cooking, laundry, making a deicisions – is practice. The more opportunities for low-risk (non-life/death) practice of life skills that families can provide, the better.

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