By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
In high school, I learned to hem my own pants (a handy skill considering I’m 5’2″). In fact, I learned many life skills outside of the core content areas, skills that eased my transition into functioning adulthood. Some of these skills were taught to me by my parents, and others by a since-discontinued class, home economics. Regardless, I started college and early adulthood prepared with basic skills that made…well, lifeEasier.
I don’t know if today’s students are sufficiently prepared with basic life skills. But having taught for over 16 years, I am able to comment on the skills our students lack, and the following five life skills make the list.
5 life skills all students need to become functional adults
The following list could contain 100 points. I struggled to narrow it down to five. In addition to the life skills listed below, I considered adding stress management, failure management, job search, exercise basics, and buying/renting equipment. ‘a house. Oh and going up and down the stairs on the right side. Just kidding about the last one…but not really.
1. How to manage basic life administration
There is no escape from administrative tasks. These tasks, described below, often begin in high school and gain in magnitude and urgency in adulthood. (Here is a list of important student administrator.) Knowing how to manage administrative life is essential to living as a functional adult.
The main administrative tasks that students must learn before graduation are the following (although, again, the list could be much longer):
- Email management: Have a system to verify it, respond in a timely and appropriate manner, manage inboxes, etc. here is a email management crash course.
- Make appointments (and know they need to be made): Students need to know how often to go to the dentist and have an annual physical, as well as how to make, remember and show up for these appointments. Students should also know how and how often to schedule basic maintenance work (oil changes, etc.). Calendar skills are essential.
- Organization of papers: Adulthood brings stacks of paper. A key life skill is paper handling. This includes knowing how to reduce papers (online automation, canceling subscriptions, removing names from marketing lists), storing papers (filing systems, storing tax documents) and extracting information from papers so that physical paper can be thrown away.
- Guarantee the hygiene of living spaces: Cleaning and tidying skills include how to clean and disinfect surfaces, dust, vacuum, change air filters, do laundry, wash linens, clean microwave and appliances, etc. Here is how to clean school supplies. Also: Today’s PSA bonus is that you can’t put metal in the microwave.
- Car maintenance: How to pump gas, how often to change oil, what to do in the event of a flat tire, insurance basics, inspection stickers, and more.
- Food: Food expiration rules, food inventory skills, basic food preparation, nutrition, how to grocery shop and cook.
Resourcefulness is an essential life skill for students and adults. Resourcefulness is knowing how to figure things out. What do you do when you’re confused? How to understand difficult things? What do you do when you’re stuck? What do you do when you don’t know something? I also consider conflict resolution to be a matter of resourcefulness, although I also list this under communication below. I write about ingenuity here.
Students roll their eyes when they hear “communication skills” because it is a vague term that is overused. But for real, knowing how to get your point across is essential for doing just about anything in school, work, and life. (Only three categories exist, actually.)
Communication skills include:
4. How to learn things
For obvious reasons, this skill is best learned in school. Either way, if you don’t have basic strategies for knowledge acquisition, you’ll have a hard time finding meaningful employment and growing. Learning things is hard. But there’s a reason we call study skills study. skills.
5. Money management
No, I will not preach the importance of balancing a checkbook. I’m not that disconnected. But students should understand basic financial concepts before graduating to avoid money problems in adulthood.
Students should acquire at least the following fundamental financial skills:
- Debit Cards vs Credit Cards
- how credit works (including credit scores and why it matters)
- Credit card responsibilities (penalties, interest rates, etc.)
- Basics of retirement and investing (401K, etc.)
- Savings accounts vs checking
- Tax basics (at a minimum, that annual taxes are a thing and who to hire for tax preparation)
These five life skills for students are not often taught in school. I wish they were. Or at the very least, I would like schools to offer electives that students could take if parental instruction in these areas is lacking. To be fully functioning adults, our students need more than content instruction in algebra and physics: they need life skills. If you don’t know any of the skills listed here, check out tip #2.
I also like this list of life skills for college students. It’s very specific, which makes it useful.