Going to college is supposed to mean that you’re getting a higher level of education, but within that institution there are a few obvious things that college seems to forget it should teach you. Diagnosing yourself with fifteen different personality and mood disorders thanks to taking Psych 101 might serve a purpose in your career, reading the complete works of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Sarte, might mindgasm you into looking at the world with a different (terrifying) point of view. But none of the theory and not all of the internships are going to provide you with some very basic lessons that you need to know, not just for when you get out of college, but while you’re in it, too.
How to split a restaurant check between more than three people
Do you want to sit at a table with six other people that you want to take and axe to and who all are would gladly destroy your horcruxes if they could? No? Nobody does! But when it comes time to divvy who pays for what that’s the basic mood everyone quickly leaps into. You know why? Because trying to keep track of who bought what and how much tip they owe after you determine how much tax belongs to them is f*cking hard! Basic math goes out the window, especially if you’re drunk off your ass at this point. Thankfully, there are apps that have been invented to aid you all, but you didn’t learn this in Econ 101.
How to do your taxes
This should be required learning for your first semester of freshman year. No class is willing to teach you how to pay your taxes. What forms? How do you find a good accountant? What receipts should you be keeping? What percentage of your meals can you write off? Your student loans? What expenses can you put on the dreaded forms come April 15th? And then you need to relearn how to do them when you’re getting set to graduate, because depending on what career you identify yourself as having, all of that changes and the percentage the government takes out of your income will change to. You need to know the difference of the tax rate between a W-4, W-2, and 1099. But where’s that seminar the weekend after orientation?
How to apply for an apartment
Did you know that if you use a broker, they charge fifteen percent commission? Do you know the legalities you have to deal with if you’re subletting? Were you taught about your rights as a tenant, or a room mate, and how to break a lease if necessary? You should. You better. Most colleges though just magically pair you off with someone else and then they have a whole hierarchy of folks whose jobs include listening to you complain and helping you move to another domicile if you want to. A landlord doesn’t want to hear complaints. A landlord wants rent on time, no noise, and is going to withhold your security deposit until you bash them over the head and steal it from under their mattress. College should teach you the ins, outs, and arounds of renting, buying, occupying, and searching for a place to live in the real world.
How to make a personal budget
So you don’t go broke. So you can figure out financial goals and find ways to save money for while you are searching for employment. This isn’t like managing a meal plan, this crafting a financial outlook that categorizes your monthly, if not weekly, expenditures. This is one of those things people think is effortless but in fact takes quite a lot of tinkering. You become in charge of your finances and it becomes your responsibility to cultivate or at least maintain them. I mean, even the contestants on “Project Runway” have to manage their budgets now and you see how they can barely function without begging Tim Gun for more money. Imagine if that money wasn’t being furnished to them by Chase?
How to network
Socializing is one thing, networking is another beast entirely. Networking focuses on people skills, customer service, approaching colleagues, peers, potential peers, potential investors, and possible venture partners. Networking is about talking shop. Networking is about pitching ideas and services. Socializing is just one aspect to it. Because the morning after you’ve exchanged cards in a bar or at a party, you have to write the follow up e-mail for a follow up lunch and then be ready for said follow up. One thing’s for sure: doesn’t matter what field you go into, networking’s is a pivotal piece of ascending the ladder to success. Remember, it’s not what you know, but who you know, at first anyway.
Practicality, that’s what’s lost in most colleges today. There are exceptions. Internship programs can be a great help. Financial aid offices can be a resource as can counselors. There are a lot of community colleges that are doing great networking and job training skills. However, this kind of approach isn’t standard. What I’m talking about are basic responsibilities and knowledge you need as an adult citizen that ninety-nine percent of schools don’t bother to focus on but you need to make it a point to learn.
Trust me, when you get these basics down, you’ll have far less worries and far more opportunities to focus on.
Living by trial and error,
[Lead image via Pressmaster/Shutterstock]