A Letter to My Sons: 25 Things I Want My College-Aged Sons To Know

Dear sons,

I remember many years ago when you were both very young, when your grandmother (my mother-in-law) said to me:  “Enjoy your children while you can, they’ll be grown and gone from home before you know it.”  I remember I smiled when she said that.  I may have even laughed.  Little did I know how true her statement was.  Little did I know how fast the time really would fly.







Now I’ve been an empty nester for a few years now and you both  are winding down your college years.  I can hardly believe that my oldest is in his last semester of grad school, and my youngest is winding down undergraduate.  I often think back and wonder if I taught you both everything I was supposed to have taught you.  It seems when it came time for you to go off to college, I just wanted to scream, “WAIT!  I’m not done here yet!” But I had to let you go and boys, let me tell you, it was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  I still worry that there were things I missed out on teaching you.  Yes, believe it or not, moms DO worry about these things.  And yes, we do lay in bed at night and toss and turn, worrying if we’ve done our job sufficiently.   After all, I’m your mother and it was my and your father’s job to prepare you for college and not only for college, but for life.  Most of the time I feel I did my best but I still sometimes have an overwhelming feeling that I didn’t quite “finish my job.”  Maybe this is a common feeling among mothers.  I often wonder.








I know I messed up a lot.  There were days I lost my patience and I yelled and screamed. And I’m really sorry for that.  There are things I wish I could go back and do all over.  But it doesn’t work that way.  I know I wasn’t perfect…. but no mother is.

Here are 25 things I hope and pray you will have learned and have etched into your very being before leaving college that will help you when you enter the “real world.”



  1. Practice the Golden Rule– Treat others as you would like to be treated.  I hope you put kindness at the center of everything you do.  Do things for others and help others without expecting one darn thing in return.  Do it out of the kindness of your heart.  Always show love and kindness to everyone you meet.
  2. Don’t gossip. If you want to know why, pick up a bible and see what it has to say about the subject.  And yes, we’re all human and we sin and we will struggle with this.  I fight this one daily.  And I will keep fighting it.  I hope you do too.
  3. Don’t ever be afraid to say Yes Ma’am and No Ma’am and Yes Sir and No Sir.   You were raised in the south and you were taught it’s a sign of respect.  It has nothing to do with age or sarcasm.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s rude or not appropriate.  And you’re never too old to be polite to people.
  4. Don’t forget to call your mother every now and then.  She misses you and loves you. She always will.  And while you’re at it, let her know you’ve at least received her occasional emails.
  5. Never post a picture or a statement on Facebook or anywhere else on the Internet without asking yourself these five questions.  Would I be comfortable with my mother and father seeing this?  Would I be comfortable with my employer seeing this?  Would I be comfortable with my professors seeing this?  How would I feel if my priest saw this?  What would God think about this?   It can’t be any simpler than this:  Be careful what you put in writing or post on the Internet.  You can never take it back.
  6. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from it, and then move on.  Don’t berate yourself or keep kicking yourself.  Let it go.  But always learn from it.  I know, I struggle with this one daily.
  7. Be mindful of your health and take care of your body.  It’s the only one you have.  You’ll be thankful you did when you’re my age.  That extra weight that’s creeping up on you from all those college pizzas and fast food restaurants?  It all adds up.  It’s easier to get that weight off now than when you’re in your 40s and 50s.  Trust your mother on this one!  Vitamin supplements aren’t a substitute for healthy eating.  And though you may not feel like eating breakfast, always eat something.  It’s food for your brain and improves concentration.  ALWAYS have something for breakfast on days you have a test or exam!!  Don’t depend on power bars and energy drinks.  And ditch the caffeine pills.  Don’t make the mistake I did and rely on them for all-night studying for comprehensive finals.  I learned the hard way in college, that caffeine pills can be very dangerous and detrimental.  DON’T use them!
  8. Brush your teeth twice daily and floss daily.  Yeah, I can see you both rolling your eyes over this one.  It indeed may sound silly and even a little embarrassing for your mother to be telling you this when you’re in your twenties, but those signs you see in the dentist office that say, You don’t need to brush (or floss) ALL your teeth…. only the ones you want to keep…  There’s really something to be said for those!  They’re there for a reason!!!!  You only have one set of teeth, so take care of them!  And that goes for wearing those retainers we spent good money for.  This is one that when you get to be my age, you will wish you listened more to your mother.
  9. When you’re staying at a friend’s home, always, always, always thank your host/hostess.  Always thank the cook for meals too.  Clean up after yourself when staying at someone’s house.  This includes making your bed, putting away your dishes, not throwing your wet towels on the floor, etc.  It’s called being polite and I’ll repeat myself– you never outgrow the need to be polite to people.    
  10. Read every day.   Chances are, since you’re in college, you will probably be doing this.  But do read something everyday…. Even if it’s just required reading in a textbook for a class you’re taking, a small section of the newspaper, a short devotional, or a bible verse.
  11. Exercise every day.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Bike to classes instead of driving when the opportunity exists.  Go to the fitness center.  Go for a walk.  If you can get your heart rate up and keep it up for 15-20 minutes every day, it will benefit both your cholesterol levels and your blood pressure.  This is an area I’m trying to improve upon too.
  12. Do your part in keeping your dorm suite clean.  That means washing dishes, emptying the garbage, cleaning out the refrigerator, scrubbing sinks, tubs, and toilets, sweeping, mopping, picking up your tiny room and washing sheets.   And yes, you really SHOULD change those bed sheets once a week (I know I wasn’t always a good model of this while you were living at home but I’m trying to do better myself).   It shouldn’t always be your roommates’ job to clean the bathroom  or the kitchen.  And likewise, it shouldn’t always be you who should have to always do it either.  Do your share of the dirty work.   Yeah, I know….  it’s no fun.  But it has to be done.  It all requires discipline (see #24 below).  There are no maids in college, and mom isn’t there to do it for you.  If you’re noticing bad smells in the kitchen or you’re seeing bugs, it’s way past time to clean!  And if you find that you’re doing the majority of the work, sit down with those roommates and have that much-needed and necessary talk.
  13. Minimize time spent on electronic equipment.  This includes texting, talking on the phone, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest,  etc.  Trust me, it’s a proven fact, it will steal your time and adversely affect your grades.
  14. NEVER text and drive.  It kills.  Period. No mother should EVER have to receive that unfathomable news that her child was killed or killed someone else over a stupid text message.  And while we’re on the subject, speed kills.  Bottom line: drive the speed limit and concentrate on driving when you’re behind the wheel.  My mother used to always tell me that every driver needs one little fender bender and one speeding ticket to make them realize that they aren’t God’s gift to all drivers.  I think she was right about that.
  15. Eat more fruits and vegetables.  Drink more water and less soft drinks (or better yet, no soft drinks). Eat more whole grains.  Sounds so simple, but it’s so much better for you and worth it.  Yes, I’m working on this one too.
  16. Always write thank you notes and be prompt with them.  It’s just plain and simply rude not to do so.
  17. Hygiene is important.  Pay attention to it.  Shower, wash your hair, shave, wear deodorant, and wear clean clothes.  Girls like all that.  Yeah, sometimes you just won’t feel like washing your hair because it’s easier to just throw on a hat or cap.  I will repeat myself.  Hygiene is important.
  18. Nothing is more important than family.  You may not believe that now, but the older you get, the more you’ll learn that it’s true.  You are brothers who were always so close.  I hope one day you will see how important you are to each other and how special the love between two brothers really is.  Never let anything or anyone come between that love.  And should something or someone come between you, I hope that you would do all in your power to correct it.
  19. Learn to forgive.  That goes for others as well as yourself.  
  20. Don’t think you’re ever too old to learn.  Never take your education for granted.  It’s a necessity. (And I’m not necessarily talking about college degrees here).   As long as we are alive, we should all continue to learn.  If you ever think you know it all, think again.
  21. Never underestimate the power of prayer.  Go to God when you have concerns.  Talk to him about your hopes and dreams, your plans for the future.  Ask him for guidance and protection.  Know that His plans for your life are far more glorious than any plans you may have for your  life.  Pray without ceasing.  Turn everything over to God in prayer and know that nothing’s too small.  He ALWAYS wants to hear from you. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn this until well after I had finished college and I have deep regrets over that.
  22. Just because everybody is doing something, doesn’t mean that it’s right.  Be more eager to please God than to please your friends.  There will be temptations in life…. that’s a given.  Even Jesus was tempted.  Study God’s word and then live by it.  Live in obedience to Him.  Never feel tempted to do something just because all your friends are doing it or it’s the “in” thing to do.  If your conscience tells you not to, listen to it.
  23. Whether you succeed or fail in college is based on your effort and your decisions.  It’s all up to you.  You need to learn to accept personal responsibility.  If you choose to wait until the night before a paper is due to start on that paper, you’ve waited too long.  If you wait until the night before a huge exam to start studying, and  you don’t do well on that exam or fail it, you have no one to blame but yourself.
  24. If you learn nothing else in college, learn self-discipline.   Know when to turn off the television, the video games, and when to get off the phone, and Facebook and get your work done.  Good study habits require self-discipline.  When that alarm goes off at 7 am for that 8 am class, you may just feel like turning it off and rolling over and going back to sleep.  It’s self-discipline that makes you get up and get to that class.  It’s self-discipline that makes you continue to study when you’re tired and bored and don’t feel like studying.  It’s self-discipline that gets you to class on time, and it’s self-discipline that allows you to know it’s time to study and not play.  It’s self-discipline that makes you know you need more than 2-3 hours of sleep a night.  A tired brain means you won’t be able to think coherently or recall things well.  It’s self-discipline that allows you to get homework done 3 days before it’s due, not an hour before.  Go to class.  Professors have absolutely no interest or desire in helping you if you haven’t been coming to class all semester.   You don’t deserve any favors. And yes, it’s self-discipline that makes you choose the broccoli over the greasy french fries and the water over the Coca Cola.  A major reason that smart kids flunk out of college or drop out is that they don’t have the self-discipline to manage their time. Believe it or not, bad eating habits, not getting enough sleep, poor study skills, and procrastination are all reasons for failing grades and even flunking out of college. Bottom line:  It’s discipline that gets the dorm cleaned, the studying done, gets the bills paid, gets you to class on time, and gets the sheets changed on the bed.  It’s your responsibility and yours only.
  25. College isn’t about dating or relationships, or finding love.  It’s about getting an education and having better job opportunities.  God will send the right girl along when the time is right.  His time.  If you’re dating and your grades have gone from As to Cs and you can’t find the time to study, then maybe it isn’t the right time for you to be dating and dating should be postponed until after college.

I love you both with all my heart.  Never forget that.

Love, Mom ♥

About Gail

I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, veterinarian, and wanna be writer. I love nature and animals of all kinds, music, cooking, and spending time with my family.
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2 Responses to A Letter to My Sons: 25 Things I Want My College-Aged Sons To Know

  1. Wendy says:

    This is a great post, Gail. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

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