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.
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.