What sorts of real-life skills does your child need before you send them off to college? Study habits are important . . . but can she calculate a tip? He may know when his Bio final is, but can he get on the right train? Here are five real-life skills for your college-bound kid to learn before the big send-off.

Money management. Your child probably has a savings account. I would recommend opening a checking account and also obtaining a debit card in their senior year of high school. Although the checkbook is rarely needed, we have had a few occasions where she had to write a check. The debit card is indispensable. Make sure they learn how to use it before you send them off. Reinforce the fact that they need to hold onto receipts and enter into their checkbook ledger. If you obtain the checking account early enough in the senior year, your child can learn how to balance their checkbook while still at home, where they can get some help. Some banks have “teen-type” accounts that offer points toward airline miles and have other benefits. We also obtained a credit card for our daughter, on our main account, and had her “pay for dinner” a few times for practice. (She caught onto this disturbingly quickly.)

Transportation. In retrospect, I wish that we had worked harder on learning to use public transportation, as our daughter went from one extreme to another. Although she successfully figured it out for herself, it did cause long-distance worry. Find out what types of transportation are available at or near your child’s college. Many colleges have shuttles that will take them limited distances -- to malls or theaters, for instance. Hopefully, either during your college visitation or when you take them to school, you’ll have a few extra days to experiment. They will need to know how to look up bus, subway, or train schedules. Our daughter’s college requires that she attends events in the city, which means a combination of shuttles, trains, and subways. It was a real thrill to get a call from my daughter when she was lost in Queens, having gotten off at the wrong stop. They will, as she did, figure it out eventually, but a little knowledge is helpful. Unfortunately, the time will come when they miss taking one of the inexpensive options and have to take a cab. Look up the numbers of a few cab companies, and have them program those numbers into their cell phone.

Tipping. How much? Who needs a tip? Well, the aforementioned cabbie, for starters. Add to that: pizza and Chinese food delivery folks, as well as baristas and waiters. Check out iTipping, which has a free calculator and a card you can print out for a wallet.

This suggestion isn’t so much as a skill as perhaps “arming with knowledge”: Birth control. Hopefully, you have had “the talk” much earlier, in high school, but if you haven’t, you’d better start talking. Don’t assume they will always have the presence of mind to make good choices, since dorms are full of hormones, alcohol, and peer pressure. Be realistic.

Self-Defense. I wish we had found a self-defense class, or something that taught how to be safe in your surroundings. Growing up in a small town, our girl is probably not as careful as she should be.

I agree that experience is a great teacher. However, inexperience can be stressful. There are so many other stressors for a freshman – why not gain these skills, ahead of time.