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Skills Learned in High School: What I Wish I Learned In High School

As I carefully pinch the delicate, golden tassels hanging from my cap and transfer them across (the most official act of becoming a graduate,) the only thoughts running in my head are, “Please don’t trip. Please don’t trip.”  And after the graceful (phew!) promenade and the numerous kisses from Grandma, I can finally rejoice. I did it. I graduated from high school.

By the time I sit and soak in reality, you may be surprised to know that my first thought was not how to create a covalent bond or the year that the Ukraine war was declared. It was more along the lines of, “Well…now what?”

Yes, the anatomy of a frog is interesting. Calculating the area of various polygons is remarkable. But I suppose these skills don’t come into play as often as other practical skills might. After four years of PowerPoint presentations and tedious final exams—although very rewarding—I can’t help but think about what I wish I would have learned.

I don’t regret my education. But in retrospect, I see that I would have benefited from learning how to answer the most difficult interview question or construct a seamless and impressive résumé. There are plenty of basic life skills not taught in school.

In essence, I wish I had taken the class titled How To Be An Adult 101.

As I enter my final year of college, I realize that there are several sensible skills that are often overlooked as students endure their high school years.  Perhaps “How To Be An Adult 101” is a stretch.

But I think it would have been worthwhile to attain some practical skills woven throughout the academic courses. For example, amid scrutinizing the stock market during Economics, it would have been helpful to also learn how to budget money efficiently. What about how to track and organize bills? The thought may seem silly, but until you’re cramped in a dorm room with enough money to buy a year’s worth of ramen, you don’t realize how invaluable these seemingly “silly” skills truly are.

In my post-high school life, I have spent hours researching and compiling answers to the most challenging interview questions. It would have been advantageous to have learned the proper etiquette for a formal interview. Maybe how to speak with company managers and what employers look for in their potential employees.

I guess what I am saying is that I wish some of our dense academia could have been supplemented with some serious life skills training, not just the kind where you learn how to bake a cake in Home Ec.

But most importantly—after learning about the reality that is post high school, I would say I wish I had learned to take advantage of every moment of the last years of my carefree youth. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Youth is wasted on the young.”  If I could have learned anything in high school, it would have been to prove to him wrong.

Taylor Henkin is a senior at the University of Michigan.  

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