Don’t Dry Your Clothes in the Microwave and Other (Unsolicited) Advice for Our Daughter Before She Goes to College

Don’t Dry Your Clothes in the Microwave and Other (Unsolicited) Advice for Our Daughter Before She Goes to College

My latest in The Washington Post’s On Parenting

Celia is headed to college. After 18 years of raising her, Celia knows how to jumpstart a car, write a check, make a doctor appointment, and stand up for herself firmly but politely if she’s being mistreated. Let’s hope she has enough sense to change her sheets more than once a semester, not to leave food sitting out and uncovered, and empty the lint screen before starting the dryer. And she better know that the microwave will not speed-dry her clothes, as my friend Kristen learned her freshman year.

Celia’s pretty set on the basics of living on her own—even if we’ve failed miserably at getting her to keep her room neat and make her bed every day (not for lack of nagging). But before we drop her at the dorm and embark on the lonely drive back to our too-quiet house (well…perhaps we’ll console ourselves with a brew and two-step at a honky tonk bar on Nashville’s Lower Broadway before we hit the road), I feel the urge to transmit some last tidbits of parental advice.

Does any young adult really want advice from her parents before leaving home…indeed, any time after age 13? I’ve found that our kids feel confident that they are experts at nearly everything, and initiating a conversation where I impart “advice” promises to land with a thud. But if I could have that conversation, or at least tuck a letter into the first aid kit I’ll pack for her dorm room, I’d consider it one of my last acts of maternal love before she soars out of the nest (at least until she moves back into the basement in 4 years).

This list is nothing radical—indeed, adults have surely been passing on variations of it for generations (and I know that because I solicited the input of many parents whose kids have grown and left home).  Tim Shriver, the speaker at Celia’s high school graduation, urged the seniors to always choose inclusion over exclusion—a sentiment of kindness so important to a respectful, civil society. And this list does not cover basic advice about safety, sex, drinking, and drugs—which is so important that it merits its own list.

The list encompasses advice I either received, learned, or wish I had gotten before I left home, and I hope it makes our daughter’s journey richer.

So here goes…Celia, pause that episode of “Beat Bobby Flay” and stop Snapchatting for a minute, because I need to tell you to:

1. Go to class! We hope you’ll make friends and get involved with exciting things. But remember why you worked so hard to get here and make learning your biggest priority. Keep up with the reading, study every day, and you’ll still have plenty of time to play.

2. Get to know your professors. Especially at a big school, it can be intimidating, but you’ll get more out of school if you introduce yourself to your professors and go to office hours at least occasionally. Most professors—at least the good ones—genuinely enjoy getting to know students, especially the ones who put in some effort. Sit near the front of class and turn your cell phone off, and when you find inspiring professors, see what else they teach and try to take more of their classes—whatever the subject matter.

3. Say yes (not to that!).  College is a unique opportunity to do and go to unusual things, and many of them are free and within walking distance.  Try things you wouldn’t normally be interested in (plays, student movies, etc.). Whenever possible, say yes to new experiences. Who knows where you might meet a fascinating friend or discover a hidden talent or passion?

Read more in The Washington Post.

What was the best life or school advice you received or what advice do you wish someone had given you?  Please share in the comments. 


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