My husband and I were talking last week about why college is important and we decided that college is like real life with training wheels. I have two siblings in their mid teens, living at home. My parents pay for almost everything they want and need, but dole out money as needs arise, not lump sums. They also do their laundry, remind them to study for tests, help them decide what classes to take, etc.

When they go off to college, those things will change. Whether they work or my parents support them, they will have to manage money. They will do their own laundry and clean up after themselves. They will keep track of their own classes and what needs to be done. But they will do all those things in the safety of an environment where there are safety nets if they fail. They’ll have an RA and everyone in the laundry room to ask about laundry (I helped out more than my fair share of people the years I used the campus laundry!). They’ll have a limited amount of money (and no credit cards — family rule!) so that if they mismanage their money, they won’t lose much other than nutrition when they have to eat ramen. They will have resources like learning centers and sympathetic professors to help them navigate their classes if they need help.

Going straight from home to moving away to start a job or straight to marriage won’t give them that safety net. We all fall down a few times before we get it together and I’d rather my siblings and my children get real world practice before they are thrown out into a place where it really counts.