In my job teaching college English and creative writing, I hold individual conferences with my freshmen every semester, and this year’s were a doozy: One young woman wanted me to help her with a criminal complaint; one young man sought advice on finding a neurologist; and another student asked me how debit cards are different from credit cards.

I tried my best to help, but wondered, not for the first time, why young adults were coming to college with so little knowledge about how being a grown-up works? In my experience, even students who go to outstanding high schools are often at a loss for how to function in the mature world they’ve joined. They may be academically prepared, but often they are woefully lacking in real-life skills and knowledge.

After thinking through the questions that most often come up with my students, I’ve compiled a list of things parents of older teenagers can discuss with their kids to help them get ready for higher education, and life in general.

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