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3 Things I Wish I Learned In School (And What You Can Do About It Now)

When I was in school, I strove to be perfect. I wanted the best grades possible, high extra curricular involvement, and the top leadership roles. My grades did turn out pretty good, and I did achieve a lot in terms of extra curricular activities. From where I stood and many others, I did everything right. I should have had the whole world at my fingertips. Then I realized how unprepared I was for the real world.

Here are just a few of the things I wish I learned in school:

1. Everything job-related.

Including how to find a job and how to keep one.

Technical and vocational schools are better at teaching their students how to find jobs because their success depends largely on their students getting hired. But universities can boast about how many students graduate, whether they get jobs afterwards or not.

I didn’t learn anything about resumes and cover letters or interviewing in high school. Throughout college, I only had one class focused on the job hunting and entering the workforce. It was a business communication class, and everything revolved around working in a professional environment.

Writing professional emails, interviewing practice, and working on our resumes and our cover letters taught us some job-world skills . So maybe I did technically learn this in school. But this course is not required for all students. And I’m pretty sure almost all (if not all) the students at the university will one day have to join the workforce.

During my job hunting phases, I also scoured Pinterest for articles on good job hunting and interviewing practices. Luckily, we at GenTwenty have loads of advice, including 5 Ways People Bomb Job Interviews and 5 Things to Negotiate in Your Compensation Package.

However, it is important to remember that websites and blogs are authored by people. Some humans have good advice, and some are flawed. As people with unique experiences, backgrounds, and intentions, readers must keep this in mind.

Related: How to Take Advice from the Internet

It’s useful to do research and look into multiple resources. Look for consistency between sources, and remember things like your audience and the type of job/field you are interviewing for. These are among the things no one tells you about your resume, for example.

2. Relationships.

As far as I know, there are no mandatory classes or workshops or anything on relationships in school. But there really should be.

The mandatory classes/workshops on sexual assault in universities do no count. They are required because of the extraordinarily high prevalence of sexual assaults on campuses. I am primarily not counting them as formal education on relationships because many universities still have flawed procedures to handling sexual assault cases when they are reported.

There is no discussion on what a healthy relationship looks like, or even an unhealthy relationship.

I was under the impression as a child that a married couple was happy. Wasn’t that the happy ending of almost every chick flick and even side love story in action and drama movies? Don’t Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast have happy endings because the girl gets her prince in the end?

Real relationships take work. They take compromise, and they take sacrifice. Relationships require mutual respect and communication. They will not always be a walk in the park, but it should not be constantly walking on a bed of nails.

These last few tips are mentioned occasionally every once in a while. But what does “gaslighting” actually mean? What are the stages of abuse? And why don’t women (or men) in abusive relationships just leave?

We’ve learned so little about manipulation and abuse that we often do not recognize when it is happening to us.

Put simply, gaslighting is a tactic used to invoke doubt in the other person’s reality. It sounds complicated, but you’ll recognize it when you see it. You may even know someone that is a gaslighter. Here’s an article on 10 Things I’ve Learned About Gaslighting As An Abuse Tactic and the 7 Stages of Gaslighting in a Relationship. They can describe it much better than I can.

In my high school, the only sex education I remember getting was about puberty, menstruation, STDs, and a birthing video that was treated like a horror film. Because apparently that’s all that we really need to know about relationships.

What about 4 Signs Your Relationship Is Worth Fighting For? Or 10 Dating Habits You Need To Break Right Now?

I’m willing to bet that every student will enter a relationship in their lifetime. They don’t all have to be intimate, but most probably will enter intimate relationships as well.

My university had a few select classes on intimate relationships, and I was thankfully able to take them. These included a class focusing on sexual assault and another one called sexual communication (mainly focused on the communication of intimate relationships). Both were extremely informative and relevant to life, but also not required.

Because healthy relationships are apparently assumed to be so easy, we don’t need to be taught to respect each other’s bodies or know what a healthy relationship looks like. But today’s sexual assault statistics and divorce rates argue otherwise.

3. Money Money Money

Everything about money.

From bank accounts to interest rates to loans and insurance, including deductibles and copay, I think all students will one day have bank accounts and insurance. Many take out loans with the price of college today. But how many of us actually know what a loan entails and what it will mean for our future?

How many of us still know how to write a check? There was once a time before Venmo. How many of us twenty-somethings have a Roth-IRA and are saving for retirement?

I honestly still do not understand all the financial stuff. I mastered budgeting after I graduated and realized that I was still a helpless adult spending blindly. So I created a budget sheet on Excel to make sure I didn’t spend more than my income. But the whole retirement account and copay stuff still befuddles me.

While many websites and bloggers have tips on saving money and earning extra money, there still isn’t much about deductibles and retirement accounts. For that one, I’d rather just go straight to my bank or credit union.

I’m fortunate to have a family member that works with accounts, and it’s better to go to someone you trust. If you don’t completely trust them, get multiple opinions. Research how good their bank/credit union is, and also look up articles from places like the Business Insider and definitions like what the hell a copay actually is.

The scary thing is that if we don’t learn this in school, many of us may not learn it at all. If our parents don’t know, they can’t teach us. Since schools don’t teach this to us, we have to learn it on our own. And if we don’t learn it on our own, then we won’t learn it at all.

If school is prepared us for the real world, then finances and money should damn sure be one of the primary things we learn. Because no matter how smart you are, if you go to Ivy League schools, become famous, or even a millionaire, you can still go broke if you do not know how to manage your money.

And there we have it. Three things I wish I had learned more about in a formal school environment. What about you? What’s one thing you wish you had learned while you were in school?

About the Author

Lindsey Zawila

Lindsey graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 with a B.A. in Global Studies and Communications. She studied abroad in Austria (Summer 2013), Switzerland (Spring 2014), and India (Winter 2014). Her previous internships include the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland, the Foreign Service Institute at the U.S State Department in Washington, D.C., and CNN International in Atlanta, GA. In her free time, you'll find her reading, writing, making jewelry or friendship bracelets, sewing or refining her photography skills.