By the time a person graduates from high school, there are some things he should know to be successful in the modern world. Whether he plans to go to college, learn a trade or begin working full time, today's high school graduate will benefit from mastering a set of skills useful not only in school, but in life.
Learning to manage your money means understanding how to keep track of your income and expenses. Take a course in financial literacy if your school offers one. Topics will include balancing a checkbook and learning how to compare prices while shopping for everyday items.
Running a household means being able to provide for yourself and to live independently of your parents. Skills that fall under this category include shopping, learning how to clean and knowing how to do basic upkeep and home maintenance. It also means knowing how to prepare, cook and store meals, and how to effectively wash, dry and iron your clothing, whether you have in-unit laundry facilities or have to visit a laundromat.
A high school student needs to learn how to budget her time. This involves knowing when to work and when to play, when to socialize and when to relax. An online calendar or a pocket-sized weekly planner can help you keep track of your commitments. Getting all of your tasks done and still having time to do the things you love will contribute to peace of mind and reduce stress.
The high school graduate should be able to set a goal and work toward it. This requires understanding what goals are realistic and attainable, and which are just pie-in-the-sky visions. He must also have a clear idea of how to get from point A to point B, taking the necessary steps to reach his goal. Knowing what you want and how to get it is a mark of adulthood.
You don't have to be a Boy Scout to always be prepared for an emergency. Know how to change a flat tire, how to report an emergency over the phone to 911, and how to administer basic first aid to yourself and others. You may even want to take a basic self-defense class or get certified in CPR.
Effective communication is key to human relationships. Graduating seniors should know how to communicate with others. This includes knowledge of body language, etiquette, politeness and eye contact when dealing with a variety of people. It also involves how you communicate in writing, whether it's an email to your boss, a job application or a letter of complaint to your landlord.
There's a lot of information out there. High school students should know how to think for themselves and to not take everything they hear or read as truth. Critical thinking skills imparted at the high school level will challenge teens to be more questioning and probing as adults, and to expand their knowledge base through independent research.
In today's globalized society, students will benefit from learning to think big. If a student has no idea about life outside his small town, he runs the risk of getting swept away by the tide of up-and-coming globally minded graduates. Thinking globally might involve mastering a second language, reading international newspapers or traveling to a foreign country. Reading about foreign destinations, joining a multicultural club or befriending an exchange student are other ideas.
Accountability is the ability to hold yourself responsible for your decisions and actions. Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for the choices we make, even if they end up being mistakes. Be forthright about your mistakes and prompt with your apologies. If you make a promise, hold yourself accountable by following through on your word. When you are living on your own, chances are there will be nobody to hold you accountable but yourself, so start practicing early.
What Makes You Happy
It may sound cliche, but many high school students are so stressed from the demands of coursework and the college application process that they enter adulthood unaware of what truly energizes them and brings them joy. Taking time to understand what makes you the happiest will help you avoid pitfalls when it comes to making big decisions in later life.
Parker Janney is a web developer and writer based in Philadelphia. With a Master of Arts in international politics, she has been ghostwriting for several underground publications since the late 2000s, with works featured in "Virtuoso," the "Philadelphia Anthropology Journal" and "Clutter" magazine.