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Life Skills to Teach Your Teens Before They Go to College

As your teens prepare for their college careers, equipping them with more than just academic knowledge is crucial. Textbooks and lectures will play a significant role in their college experience, but the life skills they possess will truly set them up for success. Here are some essential ones to impart to your young adults before they head to college.

Teen Financial Literacy

Many teens enter college with little understanding of personal finance. The youth are facing higher levels of debt and are more financially dependent on their parents than ever before, so financial literacy is a skill that will serve your teens well throughout their lives. Start by teaching them the basics of budgeting, including income, expenses and savings goals. Show them how to track expenses and identify areas where they can cut costs.

You can discuss the potential pitfalls of credit cards and loans, and stress the importance of living within one’s means. Consider involving them in family financial decisions to give them practical experience managing money.

Stress Management 

Like all aspects of life, college life can be stressful, so teens need to prioritize their mental and physical well-being. In 2023, two-thirds of college students reported feeling stress daily. Teach your teenagers healthy coping mechanisms for managing pressure, including:

  • Exercise
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Nature walks
  • Spending time with friends

Encourage them to maintain a balanced lifestyle by getting enough sleep, eating well and making time for activities they enjoy. They also need to know they can seek help when necessary and that it’s OK to prioritize self-care.

Communication and Empathy

Effective communication is vital to building relationships, working with others, expressing oneself and avoiding misunderstandings. Empathy in college students has steadily declined since 1980, while mental health conditions are on the rise. Help your teens develop their communication skills by teaching them how to articulate their thoughts and ideas clearly and persuasively.

They should practice active listening, empathizing with others, and adapting their communication style to different audiences and contexts. Give them opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations, debates and presentations, allowing them to hone their communication skills in a supportive environment. Activities such as volunteering and community services are fantastic ways to develop empathy.

Basic Household Skills for Teens

From doing laundry to cleaning their living space, teens need to know how to care for themselves and their environment. They’re probably used to you doing a large portion of chores, but when they go off to college, it’ll all be up to them.

Teach them how to safely operate household appliances, handle common repairs, and maintain a clean and organized living space. These skills will make their college experience more comfortable and help them throughout life. 

Other basic household skills they should know include:

  • Unclogging drains and toilets
  • Grocery shopping
  • Washing dishes
  • Laundry and ironing
  • Sweeping
  • Dusting
  • Checking the breaker panel

Time Management

Time management is essential for college success. School life can be hectic, with classes, assignments, extracurricular activities, work and social events all vying for attention. Teach your teens how to prioritize tasks, create schedules and manage their time effectively. Using tools like planners or digital calendars can help them stay organized and meet deadlines.

While your child is still in elementary or high school, get them in the habit of doing their homework as soon as possible after school. Most people forget up to 40% of information within a day of learning it. Emphasize the importance of scheduling homework time and avoiding procrastination. 

Many students also work while completing school work and balancing social commitments. These commitments can get overwhelming if your teen doesn’t know how to manage their time best. By mastering time management skills, your teens will better equip themselves to balance their academic and personal lives in college.

Adapting to Change

Change is an inevitable part of life. The world is constantly evolving, so navigating transitions, embracing uncertainty and thriving in new environments is invaluable.


You make 35,000 decisions each day without even realizing it, from small decisions like what to make for dinner to much bigger decisions like where to go to school. Decision-making is a fundamental skill that influences every aspect of life. Help your teens develop their strategy by teaching them how to identify choices, gather relevant information and weigh the potential outcomes of each option.

They should consider their values, goals and priorities when making choices, and to seek advice from trusted people when necessary. Provide opportunities for them to practice making decisions independently while offering guidance and support as they navigate the process.


Problem-solving is a critical skill that empowers individuals to overcome challenges and achieve their goals. Teach your teens to approach issues methodically, breaking them into smaller, easier-to-handle components.

Motivate them to brainstorm potential solutions, evaluate their effectiveness and adapt their approach. Promoting creativity and resilience encourages them to think outside the box and learn from setbacks. Provide opportunities for hands-on problem-solving experiences, both in academic and real-world contexts.

Cooking and Nutrition

teen cooking life-skill

Living away from home means your teens will need to fend for themselves when it comes to meals. However, many university students lack basic cooking knowledge even after living out of home for a while. Teach them basic cooking skills like meal planning, grocery shopping, food preparation and food safety.

Your teens should know the importance of a balanced diet and how to make healthy choices on a limited budget. Show them how to read nutrition labels and make informed choices about their diet. Experimenting with different recipes and cuisines can develop their culinary skills. Make an effort to cook together as a family to make the learning experience more enjoyable and hands-on.

Car Maintenance 

Basic car maintenance is an essential skill for young adults who will be driving regularly. Teach them how to perform routine tasks such as checking tire pressure, changing the oil, replacing windshield wiper blades and checking their brakes.

Your teenagers must be able to identify warning signs of potential problems and know when to seek assistance from a mechanic. Consider taking them to a basic car maintenance workshop or having them join you on trips to the mechanic to learn more about vehicle upkeep and safety. This way, you’ll know they have a safe vehicle, even thousands of miles away.

Set Your Teens Up for Lifelong Success

By equipping your teenagers with these essential life skills before they leave for college, you’ll help them navigate the challenges of higher education and prepare them for success in the real world beyond graduation. Remember — teaching these skills is an ongoing process, so continue to provide guidance and support as your teens transition into adulthood. With the right tools and knowledge, they’ll be well-equipped to thrive in college and beyond.

Cora Gold is a parenting writer and editor of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. She writes about motherhood and family fun for publications including CafeMom and The Everymom. Connect with Cora on LinkedIn and X.