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Preparing to Return After a Difficult SemesterJennifer Sullivan
Getting your student ready for their first year of college is no small task. There is so much to teach them before they head into this exciting chapter of their lives!
I made quite a few blunders throughout my freshman year, including forgetting to buy medicine until I was slightly delirious from the flu and almost passed out at Target, as well as a rather serious mistake mixing cleaning chemicals because I didn’t know better.
Here are some of the things you should teach your student before they move into the dorm so they'll be ready to tackle their new experiences!
Your student needs a properly stocked medicine cabinet. The last thing anyone wants to do when they’re sick is trek to the store.
Here are some of the things I like to keep in my medicine cabinet (after years of trial and error):
You might also consider sending them to college with some of their favorite sick foods that you used to give them (if the foods have a long shelf life). Maybe it’s a can or two of chicken noodle soup or their favorite tea and some honey. My mom stuffed my suitcase with packets of the ginger tea she fed me when my stomach was upset growing up (which was a lot of the time). The nostalgia on its own honestly did wonders in helping me feel better.
When I was a freshman, it seemed like I caught some kind of cold, flu or stomach bug every few months. It probably had to do with my residence hall being one of the bigger ones on campus, but it was also exacerbated by the fact that I didn’t know how to take care of myself.
This will be the first time your student is sick without you! For me, that was one of the moments when homesickness really hit — I was sad that my mom wasn’t there to take care of me and tell me what to do. You can make sure your student knows how to take care of themselves and that they have everything ready in case they do get sick.
Teach them how to tell if they need to go to the doctor, and help them get familiarized with available health services and how to access them. They should also know how to take care of themselves in the meantime if it takes a while to get a doctor’s appointment, especially if they have a fever or an injury.
Here is a comprehensive list of things to talk over with your student to ensure they understand how to take advantage of their campus health center.
Wow, was I awful at cleaning during my freshman year. I lived in an apartment-style dorm and though I knew enough to keep my own room clean, I didn’t have enough experience cleaning kitchens and bathrooms to do it properly. I didn’t know what products and equipment to use, let alone what needed to be cleaned in the first place.
Make sure your student knows how to clean the important things like broken glass (in case they break something) and how to properly sanitize their space. If they have allergies, check out these important tips from an allergy specialist on minimizing allergens in a dorm.
Most importantly, teach them what kind of cleaning supplies absolutely should not be mixed. They may not think anything of mixing different chemicals together until something bad happens. I learned the hard way that you should never mix bleach and vinegar (it creates a toxic chlorine gas)! I got lucky and nothing serious happened, but it is a very dangerous and very easy mistake to make.
Your student may know how to do laundry, but it is almost too easy to accidentally ruin formal clothes or shrink wool clothing in the dryer. The most helpful skill might be to teach them to decipher the “How to Wash” symbols on their clothes or, for the sake of simplicity, you can find a printout or poster of what the different symbols mean! Shrunken clothes and accidental dye jobs are the worst, and it’s important they know how to handle different fabrics.
Also teach them the basics of stain removal on different clothing. Marinara sauce on white shirts, especially a professional white shirt, is a painful lesson to learn.
Depending on how comfortable your student is in the kitchen, you may want to start with basics. You can start small like how to tell when different meats are safe to eat or how to properly store different vegetables (tomatoes, for instance, go bad more quickly in the fridge than they do at room temperature).
They may also not have a clue about proper food storage. Teach them how long food stays good in the fridge before it needs to be eaten, frozen or thrown away. Remind them to properly clean everything that touches raw poultry and demonstrate what fully cooked chicken looks like.
There are a bunch of little tricks that you can share with them, including some of your recipes that they love. Encourage them to use Google or to call you when they have questions!
Now that you’ve covered the basics, find out what they would like you to teach them. Maybe they want to learn a specific recipe or how to iron a shirt properly. They might want you to teach them to sew so they can mend their clothing or fix a button. Or maybe they just want to spend some extra time with you doing some of the things you both love!
Summer is just beginning so you have plenty of time to teach them everything they need to know before they leave for college. Relish the time you spend together, and check in with CollegiateParent regularly as we share more ways to prepare for the fall semester.
College move-in is approaching! Help your student prepare by making sure they have everything they need for a successful freshman year.