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Essential Tips to Teach Your Soon-To-Be College Freshman

Ianni Le


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!

1. Teach them what type of medicine they should keep on hand.

Your student needs a properly stocked medicine cabinet. The last thing anyone wants to do when they’re sick is trek to the store to get what they need.

Here are some of the things I like to keep in my medicine cabinet (after years of trial and error):

  • Tums or Pepto-Bismol for those times when food just doesn’t sit right or their stomachs are feeling queasy.
  • Tylenol or Advil. Any preferred kind of pain relief and fever relief is super helpful to keep on hand.
  • A thermometer to check for fevers!
  • DayQuil and NyQuil, if you use these products (or a generic equivalent). This duo is a student staple as colds travel so quickly through the dorms.
  • Basics! Cough drops and Band-aids are items you really want to have at the ready.
  • Allergy medication. If your student has allergies, make sure they have an adequate supply of medication for it and that they understand how and when to take it.
  • A first aid kit. Make sure they have Neosporin or an equivalent to clean the wound and sufficient bandages for whatever might happen. CollegiateParent MarketPlace has a handy kit you can get off Amazon that includes a little of everything!
  • Immunity boosters. This one is more of a personal preference for me, but I appreciate having Emergen-C packets or Vitamin C available when I notice people around me starting to get sick. You may have your own homeopathic approach to preventive wellness that you can share with your student.

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.

2. Make sure they know how and when to access health services!

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.

3. Teach them how to clean their space safely!

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.

4. Teach them how to wash different fabrics!

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.

5. Teach them about food safety for storing and cooking.

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!

Lastly, check with your student to see what else they want to learn!

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.

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    Ianni Le is a writer and content creator for CollegiateParent. She attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, graduating with a degree in Media Design and English Literature. She grew up in Shanghai, China and enjoys her dogs, books and food equally.
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    Zoe Campos
    2 months ago

    Thanks for telling me that I should know what kind of health services are available to me if I were to live alone for college. I still have two years left before I enroll as a freshman, but since I want to take college seriously, I know I should get myself prepared. I'll try to search for other courses I can take that can be beneficial for me and my chosen degree program.

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