Life Skills You Don’t Learn in College
And where you should go to learn them
As a college graduate, I can tell you that I learned a lot of valuable academic and life skills in college. I certainly reflect on my experience positively, and I do think it helped me even though I’m technically not using my psychology degree.
Regardless, going through college taught me a lot. I learned incredibly important skills like time management, perseverance, studying, writing, and more.
But that’s not why we’re here today.
For everything great I learned in college, there are some pretty big things about life that I didn’t know when I graduated.
I, and a lot of others, leave college without much of an idea of how to handle taxes or set up retirement savings.
Here are the biggest life skills college taught me nothing about, and the other ways you can learn about them.
I get it, college isn’t a budgeting and savings 101 seminar, but it’s pretty astonishing the lack of financial awareness I left college with. I have a feeling most students experience a similar lack of financial knowledge, but if you were in a major that taught you the following, please share below some classes or resources that could be useful to others.
Here are the top financial life skills I left college without:
- Expenses. You get a taste of this in college (if your parents aren’t financially supporting you), but I still didn’t have a real sense of the sheer expenses you face each month on your own.
- Retirement funds. Yeah, I’ve since learned about (and set up) a Roth IRA, but I had no idea about the options when I graduated.
- Mortgages. I had a vague idea of what a mortgage was, but all of the critical details you’ll need to actually go through with one were beyond me. This is another skill I’ve since mastered as I purchased my first home this year. Yay!
- Taxes. Taxes are terrifying when you’ve never had to pay them. I had to do a lot of investigation about this after college since I’m self-employed and must pay my own taxes. Chances are, I’m still paying more than I should but that’s a topic for another day.
In between examining sheep brains and filling in multiple-choice bubbles, I don’t recall much information on real-estate or the home buying/selling process. Yeah, this is one I learned all about during the process of purchasing my condo.
The basics of insurance I knew about. The details? No clue. This is one that’s hitting me hard now as I’m about to turn 26 and have to purchase my own health insurance for the first time.
But, as we know, there’s a lot more to insurance than health insurance. When graduating, I really knew nothing about:
- Health insurance
- Life insurance
- Renter’s insurance
- Homeowner’s insurance
- Car insurance
- Insurance terms (premiums, out of pocket maximum, deductible, etc).
- Finding the best insurance prices and providers
I have to admit, as a student-athlete, I had access to a lot of helpful resources that I didn’t take full advantage of. One of them was career planning.
Chances are, you may actually be able to learn about some of these career planning concepts if you engage in the right opportunities, but if you only take your classes then you most likely won’t. Here are career planning skills I didn’t learn in college:
- Choosing your first job. I didn’t realize that your first job out of college was more valuable for the rest of your career than your major, and I also wasn’t really sure what to look for, etc.
- When/how to change jobs. Sometimes, your company will make an effort to help you progress and move up, but many times you have to demand progress. I had no idea how to go about earning or asking for promotions, or when you should consider looking for a new position.
- The different paths to careers in my major. Psychology is pretty broad, and there are so many directions you can go. While we definitely learned about some job options, we didn’t really dive into the different paths you can take or how to decide which is best for you.
This might seem small, but it’s really a pretty big life skill. At all stages in life, you work on your negotiation as you must compromise with friends and significant others, etc. But, that’s not really the type of negotiation I’m talking about.
A huge life skill that college tends to skimp over is negotiating in the workplace. I did not realize how important it was to negotiate with potential and existing employers. I almost didn’t get that you could still ask for something different (within reason and based on your value) even if the job description and offer said one thing.
Where to learn these critical life skills
Okay, so the college education you pay tens of thousands of dollars for tends to lack education about several crucial life skills. So, where can you learn about these things? Well, here are the top places I recommend.
My #1 source of “life skill info” has been my parents. They have direct experience, know me/my situation, and have my best interests in mind. They share their experiences, what’s worked well, and what they would have done differently, which greatly helps me make informed decisions about the concepts above.
Parents and other older adults in your life are a great place to start for advice, but have you checked in with your friends? People your age that have gone through the experience will have even more relevant information, as they experienced it recently. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about budgeting, insurance, careers, and more.
Where does any Millennial learn anything anymore? The internet, duh. The internet is a powerful resource for finding out all about the life concepts and skills I discussed. Some of my favorite resources include:
- IRS.com (for information on taxes)
- Millennial Money
- Medium (of course! You can find informative, educational content on many different topics here.)
Okay, so yes, YouTube is technically part of the internet. But video content is pretty unique from articles. Sometimes, it’s easier to digest the information in video format. Some creators to check out include:
- Graham Stephan
- Money Coach (they don’t appear to post anymore, but they have an archive of helpful videos.)
- Consumer Reports- specifically their buying guides and howto videos.
- Shelby Church- her video topics range from tech to lifestyle, but many are helpful to the modern young adult.
Got me again, podcasts are part of the internet. Like videos, they may be easier or more enjoyable to digest. Unlike videos, you can also use them while you drive, work, walk, etc. Here are some great ones to check out:
- Self-Made Mastery by Adrienne Finch
- Paychecks and Balances
- Financial Freedom
Classes, Seminars, Courses
Soooo…more school? Yes. If there’s something you really want to know about in-depth, don’t be afraid to strap your learning boots back on. Some may find it helpful to take a class, seminar, or course dedicated to the topic.
A quick search can help you find local and online options for courses that are relevant and interesting, and you may even be able to find some that are free.
For me, college was a great experience that taught me a lot of important skills, but some pretty big ones were missed. If you graduate and realize you don’t know half of the “real life” things you need to, don’t panic. Learning never really stops, the key is to just remain calm and work through it using the resources you have available.
Professional athlete, content writer, and content marketer. Sharing my raw, unfiltered experiences. https://medium.com/@rashidabeal79