Several years ago, as I finished my final year of high school, I felt nervous about going to college in another state. Even though my parents made a point to teach us skills for living away from home, and despite my desire to get to college and start my adult life, worries nagged at me.
How would I do taxes? How could I get a good job and write a good resume? How long would my groceries stay fresh? How would I make a successful budget? What would I do if something broke or needed to be fixed? How would I manage my time and stress?
These important questions – things everyone should know how to do to be a successful adult – were completely glazed over in every high school class I took. Sure, I spent years learning about every ancient Chinese dynasty and memorizing the quadratic formula (both very useful as an English major, let me tell you), but no one bothered to create or require a comprehensive life skills course to prepare students for any of their future life paths.
In my high school and many others, some life skills classes, such as nutrition and cooking, car repair and personal finance, existed, but they were very specialized and not required to graduate. With the number of classes each student was required to take, very little space was left to add five separate classes just to understand how to live alone.
As far as I can tell, very few schools in the U.S. offer broad skills classes that would teach a little of each subject – basic repairs, finance, job skills, time management, cooking, stress relief and frankly, common sense. Certainly, even fewer schools require students to take these types of courses.
I completely understand that the main focus of every high school is to prepare their students for college and/or gainful employment. This leads to an intense focus on rigorous academics, testing and college-prep courses. All of these helped me when I was applying to college and, later on, once I started college.
However, high schools completely overlook the fact that their students will go to college academically equipped but far from socially, financially and emotionally equipped to handle the real life challenges of adult life. Academic success is a huge factor when preparing to enter the job market after college, but no recently independent adult can have a prosperous and fruitful life without also knowing how to get the job they've been preparing for, how to pay for the apartment they need or how to file the taxes that'll come along with their dream job.
It is past time for high schools to incorporate comprehensive life skills courses into their curriculum. Our generation has the ability to impact the future in an incredible way. But, until we are equipped with strong foundations of social, mental and practical skills, we can't be logically expected to enter adulthood and make the difference we have the potential to make.