We all have different memories of going to high school. For some, it was great. For others (including myself), it was pretty much a dumpster fire. But regardless of our different experiences, there's one thing about high school that pretty much everyone can agree on: that it did NOT prepare us for adult life. (Unless the only thing you need to know to be a functioning adult is that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Then we're all set.)
When I graduated from high school, it felt like I was a toddler that was just dropped off on the streets and told, "Okay, now go get a job and be successful!" I had no idea what to do next, and so many concepts that are the norm in everyday adult life mystified me. I knew I was helpless, but I was optimistic and hopeful that things would be different after I graduated from college. I had this picture of my future self envisioned in my head - someone full of confidence, equipped with expertise and ready to establish myself out in the world.
I graduated with my bachelor's degree in December of 2018, and now I feel...even less prepared than I did after high school, surprisingly. It's even worse now because there's nothing in the way anymore - after high school, I knew I had a good couple of years to equip myself while in college - and now that I'm out of college, there's nothing to hide behind.
I don't have any more time to PREPARE for adult life - I'm in it right now, and there are still so many things I thought I would understand by now (and would be able to Google). Here are 14 of them:
What the heck is a cover letter?
I still don't know the purpose of cover letters or how to format them correctly...I think I've even written one before, yet they still mystify me. At this point, cover letters are pretty much just abstract concepts that determine whether or not I apply to a job.
How do I manage debt?
You would think universities would teach you how to get out of the staggering debt you're in after graduation since, you know, they're kind of the ones who put you in debt in the first place, but...nope. Hooray for bankruptcy!
What should I request as a salary on job applications?
I always struggle with this question, especially because I've literally never made anything above minimum wage. Like, should I request something low so they don't think I have high standards, or will that make me look stupid? Is "I will take literally anything you give me because I am so poor and have so many student loans" an acceptable answer???
What do I need to buy insurance for?
I know health insurance and car insurance (if you own a car, that is) are legally required, but what else do I need? Life insurance? Renter's insurance? Pet insurance? Disaster insurance? Do I just buy all of them to be safe?!
...also how does insurance work?
I've had the term "deductible" explained to me literally hundreds of times, yet I still have no idea what it means. I don't understand copays either - why do I have to pay a copay when I'm already paying for the insurance itself? How and when do I make a claim? Also, what are insurance "quotes," and how do you compare them like the commercials say you have to?!
Will phone calls ever become less intimidating and awkward?
This one might not be universal, and I understand that. But I know there are a lot of people out there who, like me, are completely afraid of making phone calls. It takes about two hours for me to summon the courage to make a phone call - and when I finally do, I'm constantly stuttering over my words and forgetting what I called for in the first place because I'm so nervous. It's just painfully awkward. Will phone calls ever be easier, or do adults just suffer the pain every single time they make one?
Do I call other adults/professionals by their first names now?
Since I'm a degree-holding adult now, do I address other professionals (like the person interviewing me for a job, my boss, etc.) by their first names? Or is that disrespectful because I'm still pretty young and not really on the same level as another working professional? I JUST WANT TO KNOW HOW TO ADDRESS MY EMAILS!!!
Can I apply to jobs outside my degree?
My bachelor's is in Mass Communications (concentrated on journalism), and I'm honestly not even sure what jobs I'm qualified for. Practically every job description requires "communication skills," so it's all the more confusing. Can I apply to positions that aren't necessarily in the communications industry, or should I not even bother?
What is "credit" and how do I build it?
So, let me get this straight: to build your credit, you're supposed to buy a credit card. But you don't get approved for a credit card if you don't have credit. But you need a credit card in order to build credit in the first place. Do you see why I'm confused?
What if I'm not ready to enter the job market?
Some people line up jobs before they graduate, so they can immediately enter the workforce and start earning an income - but I'm not that lucky. Personally, I don't feel ready to enter the job market at all and want to go back to school, but none of my professors or counselors even mentioned that as an option. If I want to go back to grad school, where do I even start? How long should I wait between getting my bachelor's and applying to grad school? Can I take out new loans for grad school even if I'm still paying off undergraduate loans? What are my options here?!
How do I land a job after college when most jobs require years of prior experience?
This is one of the most frustrating concepts of adult life and one that I completely don't understand. How am I supposed to get a job when practically all jobs require prior experience? Like, I need the experience to get a job, but it's impossible to get the experience in the first place because, without any prior experience, I'm not qualified. Funny how that works, huh?
Do I need to start saving for retirement immediately?
When is the right time to start saving for retirement, and how much should I even save (if I'll even be able to retire in the first place, that is)? Is that what a 401K is used for?
Can someone explain to me how taxes work?!?!
I have many questions about taxes: 1. How do you find out what taxes you have to file and/or pay? 2. How do you file taxes? 3. When do you file taxes? and 4. Why are they so painfully complicated?!?!
...and pretty much everything having to do with basic finances, too.
This final category of essential life skills that college never taught me is also the most encompassing, as it includes literally anything having to do with financing. I have absolutely no grasp on investing, stocks, budgeting, mortgages, etc...but, from what I hear, they're pretty important, so I think I should probably know how to work them.
This list could go on for a long time, but I think you get an idea of where I'm coming from. Long story short, college didn't prepare me at all. I'll probably figure things out eventually - but for now, I'm pretty much terrified for adult life and all the complexities that come with it.
Oh, well...at least I know that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Thanks, high school!