Five Skills Students Need in the Real World That They Won’t Learn in School

With graduation approaching, these simple how-to’s just might make the adjustment away from home a little easier.

Five Skills Students Need in the Real World That They Won't Learn in School

While high school prepares students for college by teaching them timed writing, calculus and scientific theories, there are many basic life skills that students may still be clueless about that are just as critical to know. Here’s a quick cheat sheet for five common abilities that may come in handy to new graduates as they enter college.

Money matters

There are some simple ways to begin practicing good spending habits. It is helpful to set aside money for specific things each month, or even each week. Also, setting up a checking account is an excellent idea as it offers a safe place for money to be stored until it is time to spend it.

Budget a certain amount for Starbucks and other luxuries so you do not overspend on “wants” and can save money for future “needs.” Put away some money from every paycheck or allowance as savings.

Many banks offer discounted or even free checking accounts for high school and college students. Find a bank with convenient branches and ATM locations to make life easier. Stop by to set up an account. Identification will be required so be prepared with a driver’s license and social security number.

Accessing money with a debit card linked to the checking account provides a spending trail that can show how money is being used and help manage monthly expenses.

While at the bank, ask to open a savings account as well. Savings accounts pay interest on money that isn’t being used so when it is needed, there is more than originally deposited. Small sums of money will amass over time, and one day, when in need of a house or new car, that money will come in handy.

Keep accounts protected and never give out ATM PIN numbers to anyone, no matter how trustworthy people seem. With that number, others can access and empty accounts and threaten personal information.

Poor planning in this area can lead to overspending and lack of saving, both of which can be hard habits to break as an adult.

No more wrinkles

Though it may not have mattered as much in high school whether clothes were wrinkled or smooth, there will be times in college when a more professional look is needed. Crisp, unwrinkled clothes give off a positive vibe to others and project confidence. This can be accomplished is several ways.

Senior Jaclyn Beck enjoyed ironing. She said, “I love to iron because I would never be caught dead wearing wrinkly clothes.” Check the fabric type on the clothing label and set the iron to match. Using the steam feature can also improve results. This requires adding water to the iron. Once preheated, move the iron in smooth, quick motions to avoid scorching the material.

Throwing a wrinkled item in the dryer for a few minutes can also help reduce wrinkles. It won’t leave nice clean creases, but it will at least remove that rumpled look. Adding a damp cloth to the dryer at the same time can improve the results.

Steamers are also a good option for pieces of clothing that are delicate and cannot take the heat of an iron. Most new steamers heat quickly and only require adding water.

Wrinkle sprays are better than nothing and may come in handy when traveling. Results vary based on the fabric with thin fabrics offering better results.

If time and money allow, send items to the dry cleaner for a neat, pressed look. Most cleaners offer same-day service if the item arrives by 9 a.m.

Flight planning made simple

This may seem easy, but there is more to booking a flight than it may seem. First, simply Google the needed flight. For example, search “Dallas to Miami flights.” Travel sites such as Kayak, Orbitz, Expedia and Cheap Flights will come up as well as actual airline sites such as American or Southwest. Travel sites will compare prices for many major carriers while airline sites only provide the cost of that one carrier. Choose a site to check, then put in the actual travel dates for exact flight times and costs.

Be sure to watch for hidden fees. For example, Southwest’s flights may appear more expensive, but they do not charge extra for luggage or seat assignments. It is common for airlines to charge for baggage and certain seats closer to the front or with more legroom. Some even charge for carry-ons, so watch out for these hidden fees.

Decide if it is cheaper to buy two one-way trip tickets or a round trip ticket. See if going a day earlier or later is less expensive. Flying very early in the morning or late at night can also save money. Fill out the information and be prepared to pay online. Be certain of travel plans before booking as most flights are non-refundable and changes can be costly. Look for and save the confirmation email to confirm that the flight was purchased. Making a note of the confirmation code will save time at check in.

Be sure to sign up for frequent flyer programs which allow users to rack up points for each flight. Eventually, points accumulate to achieve free flights.

Overall, getting a ticket is an easy process, but it is crucial to be selective when looking for good deals.

Manners make a difference

Social etiquette is a code of polite conduct. Using proper manners will decrease the chances of unintentionally offending others and might even charm them.

One important area of etiquette is at the dinner table. It can be small things such as keeping the cell phone out of sight, not talking with food in the mouth, immediately putting the napkin in the lap or keeping elbows off the table.

Another important area to watch is during interviews or meetings. Again, keep the phone out of sight, make eye contact, have a solid handshake, listen closely and be prepared to ask informed questions. Follow up interviews and meetings with superiors with a handwritten thank you note.

Acting in a polite manner can help differentiate and define an individual in a positive way.

Car care basics

Another valuable skill for a young person is simple car maintenance. Everything from keeping the gas level above half full, having timely oil changes, replacing windshield wipers and worn tires when needed, and paying attention to warning lights will extend the life of the car and improve driver safety.

Keeping the auto’s oil fresh and filled is critical. It should be changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. For an accurate oil level reading, be sure the car engine is cool. Junior Jonathan Young said, “Get a paper towel and find the car’s dipstick under the hood. Pull out the stick and wipe it clean with the paper towel. Put it back in its hole and remove again. Read the oil level to see if you need oil.”

Watch for warning lights that may light up on the dashboard. Lights may indicate low oil level, check engine soon, low battery charge and more. When these come on, do not ignore them and have the car checked by a professional quickly.

Replacing wiper blades and worn tires will greatly improve safety on wet roads. New blades will improve vision, and healthy tires will prevent sliding and keep the car steady on slick pavement.

Other simple checks can improve safety as well. Be sure lights and other accessories go off with the engine, as they can drain the car’s battery. Keep the tank above half full so that running out of gas never happens. A blanket or towel, wet wipes, an ice scraper and tissues are always helpful items to keep in the car for an emergency or to clean up a spill. Jumper cables and basic tools kept in the trunk can be life savers as well.

The key to leaning these skills is being humble enough to ask. Ask parents or others for advice and assistance in these areas and others that arise.  Learning breeds discipline and organization and also just makes life easier.

A good mix of life skills and school knowledge will result in an easier trip through the years ahead.