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13 Things Every Kid Should Know How to Do Before They Go to College

Despite what they may think, teenagers don't know everything. If you have a teenager headed to college soon, here are 13 things they should know to stay safe and have a successful college experience.

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do laundry washing machineFamily Handyman

How to do Laundry

Make sure your child doesn’t ruin all of their clothes the first month they’re away at school. Teach them the basics, such as separating whites from darks, water and drying temperatures for different fabrics, how much detergent to use, how often they should wash things like jeans, sheets and towels, and what should never go in the dryer. And don’t forget to take a few minutes to go over the basics of folding and even ironing, if they’ll listen. Have your child take over doing their own laundry at least a couple of months before they head off to college and they’ll be much better prepared than many of their classmates. Avoid these 10 common mistakes when doing laundry.

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How to Clean a Bathroom

You won’t be around to clean their bathroom, so make sure they know how to clean. Go over things such as sanitizing the counter and sink, scrubbing the toilet and the shower. If they’re in a dorm and have communal bathrooms, they won’t need this knowledge right away, but it’s still an important life skill. Clean your bathroom faster and better with these 13 tricks.

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What to Do When They Get Sick

Your child will get sick while they’re at school and you won’t be there with chicken soup and cold medicine. Make sure they know what to do if they get a cold, food poisoning or a fever. Teach them the basics of over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, decongestants and cough medicines and when to use each. Also, make sure they know these medications should never be mixed with alcohol. Also, encourage them to go to the on-campus clinic when they’re not feeling well. These 13 household items raise your risk for colds and flu.

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How to Change Light Bulbs and Batteries

A college student should know how to change a light bulb and batteries, when necessary. In case you don’t already know, this is the right way to remove a broken light bulb.

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How to Change a Tire

The last thing you want for your college student is for them to be stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire and not know what to do. Make sure they have the tools for the job in the trunk of their car and, when all else fails, who to call for help.

If you’re not comfortable having them change a tire, an alternative is adding them on your motor club membership and giving them their own membership card. Follow these tips for how to change a car tire.

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cookingShutterstock / Zigzag Mountain Art

How to Cook the Basics

Teach your child how to cook some basics before they head off to college. They should know how to use the microwave, how to boil water and make toast. Also teach them the proper ways to store different types of food so it doesn’t spoil, go stale or make them sick. Knowing how to clean up is also important for keeping roommates happy. Here are 16 pantry organization ideas you’ll wish you knew before.

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Basic Car Maintenance

If a college student has a car, they should know about basic car maintenance. How to fill up the car with gas, how to check the oil, refill washer fluid and even replace windshield wipers. Show them how to clean snow off the car and make sure they have a long enough snow brush if they’re attending school in a snowy climate. Everyone should have these five things in their car for emergencies.

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How to Manage Money

College students should know the pros and cons of credit cards, how to pay bills and how to use an ATM/debit card. Make sure your child is familiar with how to use mobile payment systems such as Apple Pay, PayPal and Venmo. They should also know how to create a budget and track spending. Ensure they know to keep sensitive information such as account numbers and passwords secret. Teach college students how to save on heating costs at their apartment.

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Young women shopping together in the supermarket with people in the backgroundShutterstock / Tyler Olson

How to Grocery Shop

It doesn’t matter if you college student lives in an apartment or in a dorm, they should know how to grocery shop. Teach them how to shop smart and watch for what’s on sale. You can also show them a few meals and snacks they can prepare themselves with little to know cooking. These are the real numbers to look at when grocery shopping.

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How to Do Dishes

College students should at least know the difference between dishwasher detergent and dish soap! Show them how to use the dishwasher if they have one and the proper way to do dishes by hand. They should also know what items should and shouldn’t go in the microwave and dishwasher. You’re probably making these seven dishwashing mistakes.

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Shutterstock / Aleksandra Suzi

Trash vs. Recycling

Make sure your child knows the difference between what can be tossed in the trash and what can be recycled. Help them get set up with a recycling bin in their dorm room or apartment so it’s an easy task. These are the 15 items you didn’t think you could recycle, but you can!

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How to Stay Organized

It doesn’t matter if it’s school work, a work or internship schedule or just keeping up with tasks around their apartment or dorm, college students should know how to stay organized. Help them create a message board to communicate with roommates and show them how to track important dates (like when scholarship paperwork needs to be turned in) and how to file important papers so they don’t get lost. Build a message center to help you stay organized.

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How to Stay Safe

Students should head to college with safety top of mind. Make sure they know who to call in case of emergencies. Students should know to walk in pairs late at night, not to drink and drive and to keep an eye on their beverages. Help them make sure locks on their dorm room or apartment door are in working order. Theft-proof your home with these 22 inexpensive ideas.

Rachel Brougham
Writer and editor with a background in news writing, editorial and column writing and content marketing.