With my own graduation just five weeks away, I often look at what I’ve learned outside of the classroom over the course of the past four years (see here, here and here). College is a transitional time when we move out of our parents’ homes for nine months out of the year and try to figure out what will make us happy for the rest of our lives, all while adjusting to new responsibilities and independence. Some of the skills we gain during this time will help us in our future careers; others, however, will help us in our daily “adult” lives.
This week, we’ll discuss just five of those skills that college students should learn before receiving their diplomas.
The Weekend Five: Practical Skills Every College Student Should Learn
1. How to use basic kitchen appliances.
While plenty of college students have been adept in the kitchen since before they began college, others have difficulty boiling water without setting off the smoke detector. Before I started college, I had no need to use anything other than a microwave or a toaster oven, so trying my hand at other appliances was no easy feat. While I still don’t claim to be a Master Chef, I am now able to cook and bake within reason, and have no trouble fulfilling my basic sustenance needs. (Learn to use the stove/oven and follow directions. You will be so much happier.)
2. How to write a check.
I was able to get away without learning this one until my junior year, when I moved into an off-campus apartment complex that charged extra for credit card transactions during rent payments. The first time I wrote a check, I had to sneak a peek at a fake drawing of a check that had been correctly filled out (courtesy of my mom). I was so embarrassed about this until one of the community assistants told me that he saw this problem with other students all the time. Learn to write a check while you’re still – sort of – young enough to get away with asking for help!
3. How to take a flattering picture of other people.
Sounds silly enough, but you would be amazed at how many people will try to take your picture from very obviously unflattering angles. Any party you attend, any study abroad excursion you embark on, your friends will ask you to take their picture – and will not appreciate it when the photo adds 30 pounds because you took it from underneath their chin. Take the picture from higher up and angle the camera down just slightly in order to give your subject a more svelte appearance. (If you are in a sorority, you will find this especially helpful.)
4. How to use basic word processing and spreadsheet software.
If you are active in the blogosphere, then chances are you have some experience with these types of programs already. However, I’m always shocked to see how much difficulty some students have with programs like Microsoft Word. As a part-time career advisor, I often cringe as I watch students editing their resumes in Microsoft Word, as many are unaware of the “tab” function or how to delete a large block of text at once (instead of just pressing the delete button 89 times). I’m not suggesting you learn complicated financial equations in Excel (unless, of course, you’re a business major) but I do recommend that you gain more familiarity with these programs. Many jobs require proficiency, so now is the time to practice!
5. How to manage your social media.
Don’t badmouth your boss and coworkers on the Internet. Don’t post sloppy drunk pictures of yourself and your friends on Facebook. If you wouldn’t want it to resurface when you run for public office, don’t post it. Even if you are 21 or older, posting photos of yourself with lots of alcohol isn’t necessarily the smartest choice. (You may want to avoid some of these.) Be careful about what you post on the Internet; employers do search for you and what they find could affect their overall hiring decisions.
What do you think college students should learn before they graduate?