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life after high school -what I wish my teachers had taught me

20 Dec Preparing Students for Life after High School

By Gwyneth Manser, Rubicon International

In high school I was one of those classic overachievers who planned their day around classes and activities that I thought would help prepare me for—and get me into—a good college. From AP Biology to volunteer work, summer jobs, and year-round athletics, I worked hard to build my resume and set myself up for future success.

Even with all of that hard work and preparation, once I got to college there were still things about life and education that I was clueless about, like budgeting, student loan interest, and what to wear to a job interview. As you reflect on your curriculum, take time to think about what you can do as a teacher to help your students learn the life skills that really matter for college, life, and the workforce.

Here, I share a few things I wish my high school teachers had taught me in order to better prepare me for college, and the Very Scary “Real World”. I also highlight some fantastic Atlas units as examples of ways that teachers are already addressing these important topics in the classroom. Interested in seeing the units featured below? Click on the unit names.

What I wish my teachers had taught me:

1. Knowing how to write a cover letter and resume is just as important as maintaining a good GPA.

As a high school student, I wish I had learned the practical real-world value of knowing how to properly write a cover letter and resume. This life skill is essential for preparing students for life beyond high school, and life beyond college. Not all students will go on to attend college, but all students will go on to join the workforce at some point in their lives. It is critical that we build student’s capacity to communicate their skills and experience in a concise and professional manner.

Maintaining a good high school GPA is essential for getting into college, and maintaining a good college GPA is essential for getting into graduate school. However, unless your GPA is “in the red,” once you apply for jobs the value of a high grade point average starts to decline. That isn’t to say that GPA isn’t important; however, it isn’t the only factor that will influence a student’s future.

Atlas Unit Spotlight
Pawling Central School District

Grade: High School
Course: English Language Arts
Unit: College and Career Writing

Atlas Unit Spotlight
Christopher Dexter, High Point Regional School District

Grade: High School
Course: Personal Finance
Unit: Paying for College

2. What you don’t know about finances can hurt you.

Today, nearly 71% of bachelor’s degree recipients will leave their undergraduate institutions with crippling student debt. On average, these students will pay back more than $35,000 in student loans (Sharshott, Wall Street Journal).

Understanding the true value of a college education—and the true cost of student loans—is a topic that is seldom discussed in high school classes. While guidance counselors and mentors often play an important role in preparing students for the process of applying for student loans, financial literacy should also be built in the classroom. From paying for college to basic budgeting, these skills will help students in all areas of their lives.  Like learning to write a resume and cover letter, financial literacy is a skill set that benefits all students, whether they’re college bound or not.

3. Insurance doesn’t have to be so complicated. 

Deductibles, premiums, and ancillary fees, oh my!

Even after I graduated from college I had no cohesive idea of what insurance really was, how it worked, or how I would choose—and sign up for—a plan. It’s critical that we give students a clear idea of the importance of things like health and car insurance.

If you’re looking to integrate this skill area into your lessons, ask your students questions like, “Why might you need renter’s insurance, and what is disability income insurance?”; or, “What do you think is a reasonable deductible?” Prior to entering college or the workforce, students need to have an understanding of why they need these services, and how to shop for them. This is also a great time to have students work on their literacy across content areas, such as health and math.

Atlas Unit Spotlight
Michael Fackelman, Bernards Township Public Schools

Grade: High School
Course: Financial Literacy
Unit: Health, Disability, and Life Insurance

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