Five essential life skills parents can help their students learn

At one time or another, we all had to learn how to do simple, essential tasks like doing laundry, paying bills, and managing our time. Of course, some of these skills require more practice than others, but getting your student off to a strong start can make the transition from high school life to college life that much easier.

I’m Hannah Finkelstein, and I work one-on-one with students within the Student Affairs Office. With years of experience working with students as they transition into this new chapter in their lives, I know first-hand how important these life skills are to a student’s success.

Here are my top five skills I recommend students know before coming to college and how you can help!


College is a major step toward independent living. Your student will likely be living in a residence hall and will be entirely responsible for their own laundry. Now is the perfect time to talk about what can and cannot go into the machines, how much to fit into a load, and how to properly use detergent. One great life hack is to use detergent pods. It’ll mean one less thing to haul to the laundry room and will ensure they are using exactly the right amount of detergent for each load. Other factors like separating colors from fabric types are also great tips to pass along.

Tip: Laundry rooms generally get busy on Sunday evenings. Remind your student to wash midweek to avoid a wait.

Basic Budgeting

Instilling basic budgeting habits before your student goes to college is a great low-risk time to do so. This gives them a few years to troubleshoot and determine how they prefer to manage their money. There are tons of great apps that your student can download to track spending, set savings goals, and learn money management methods. Of course, each family has their own approach to finances especially as it pertains to college. The most important thing to establish is a plan before your student leaves home. What will they be responsible for paying? If you plan to help out, how will you help? 

Time Management

College success is all about managing your time. Before your student is on their own, ask them about how they plan to stay organized during the academic year. Some strategies can be utilizing time management apps, paper agendas, or the calendar linked to their college email account. Sure, classes and homework will take up much of your student’s time, but they will also have to manage and organize their free time, extracurricular activities, and day-to-day tasks.

Tip: If a student found a strategy that worked in high school, start by applying that in college! They can always course correct and adjust later.

Eating Healthy

No matter how extensive your student’s dining hall is, they’re always going to crave some additional variety. This means students will be running to a local restaurant or making meals on their own. There are tons of simple microwave or crockpot-friendly recipes that are both cost effective and simple to make!

Tip: One of my favorite “make in a residence hall” meals is to dress up ramen! You can add an egg, frozen veggies, or even your protein of choice to bring it to the next level and make it more nutritious.


As a college professional, one of the hardest yet most important skills a student can have is the ability to advocate for themselves. As your student completes complex processes and navigates new systems, teach them how to ask for help when they need it and be their own voice. Let your student know that they are capable and you believe in them. These next few years will be filled with natural ebbs and flows, so make sure they know you have their back. We want to empower them from day one to ask questions and reach out for help so they can build those skills.

Tip: Start this on day one! Sometimes this means practicing difficult conversations about finances or paperwork before you arrive on campus. 

For additional tips and updates for Lees-McRae parents and family members, join our Facebook group! The group frequently shares photos of campus events, important deadlines, and the Parent and Family Newsletter.

Watch Hannah present these tips on WCNC's Charlotte Today

By Hannah FinkelsteinAugust 09, 2019
AcademicsFamiliesCampus Life