Having taught at the college level for 25 years, I have seen many students drop out or be put on probation their first year of college, and “dematriculated,” at the end of their freshman year. This series of articles is meant to show parents the signs that their son or daughter is not ready for college yet. During those 25 years, my main responsibility was to teach Freshman Composition, so I may know more about your young adults, in terms of probable educational success, than their parents do. In part three, I discuss four red flags that show some lack of basic life skills that may show non-readiness for college.
Here are some important life skills that your child needs to know in order to graduate to the young adult they need to be for college readiness and success. They may not seem important, but not knowing any of these things can add to your young adult’s level of stress, undermine their self-confidence, and can also cause them to appear more like children than young adults to their peers and professors. If in fact, your child does not have these life skills, they are most likely not mature enough to succeed at college, either.
- 1. They have never held a job for any significant length of time. Being able to take orders at a job is an essential life skill. If your child has been able to hold a job and keep it for at least three months, without being fired, it shows the initiative to work hard, take orders from a boss, and it shows they can manage some responsibility. I would say that being successful at an ongoing team sport and not quitting would qualify, as would volunteering for some community service (not court mandated – that muddies the waters about responsibility) or long term baby-sitting also is a good indicator. If your kid is a self-starter, who at age 12 began his own lawn service business, count that child ready for the responsibilities of college.
- 2. They either cannot drive or refuse to drive. This life skill is very important. To drive, a young adult must have enough self-confidence to take on this responsibility. In my experience, non-drivers were students who did not have the confidence to do well in their classes. They may not need a car at college their first year, and most colleges discourage it, or even forbid it, but the point is not about having a car, it’s about having the life skill and the confidence that goes with it. This not making their American “right of passage” says, “I am not ready to be an adult.”
- 3. They cannot do their own laundry or cook. Both of these cry out that they are still children, needing to be taken care of by someone. Their roommates are not going to do their laundry or cook them a snack. A child is not a good college student, but a young adult with life skills is ready for college. Roommates will shun a roommate who is not an adult and responsible. I have heard hundreds of bad roommate stories over the years, and I have seen the tears. If your kid expects to be taken care of, he or she will not make it at a big university.
- 4. Your son or daughter cannot handle a checkbook and their debit card. Managing finances is an adult responsibility. If they cannot write a check or keep track of their debit card purchases, and overspend the amount given before paying for their tuition, the university will bounce them for either non-payment of room and board or for non-payment of tuition and fees. Of course, you can handle some of that for your child, but aren’t you just prolonging their adolescence? The goal is to prepare them as much as possible for being the adult they are expected to be and need to be to be successful at college. They need that self-confidence to be successful, at college next year, and in life beyond.
One of these missing life skills does not mean they are not ready for college, but taken with the others in the series, that may mean your son or daughter is not ready to manage their own life, and that could spell failure at college. Work this last year of high school to make sure your son or daughter is fully adult enough to handle that college responsibility, so they don’t fail, and you don’t waste your time and money.