High school is a great place to learn about congruent triangles, the Battle of Bunker Hill, or the differences between DNA and RNA. And when it’s going well, you can also learn a lot about analytical thinking, teamwork, and study skills.
But there are some things that are better learned outside of the classroom: Professional etiquette, money management, resilience, and a whole host of other life skills can best be practiced and developed out in the real world.
Develop life skills over the summer
Summer, when sports practices and homework are on hold, is the perfect time to work on building these practical skills. How?
Well, since you asked...
- Get a part-time job: Bussing tables at a restaurant or working the register at a store in the mall may not be glamorous, but jobs like these can teach you to receive feedback from supervisors, manage a changing schedule, interact with all kinds of people, and behave professionally in any circumstances, all invaluable life skills.
- Make a budget: OK, so you got that job and are bringing in a regular paycheck. Now what? Make a budget. Add up all the money you expect to bring in in a week, then figure out how much you plan to spend. Consider all the ways you might need to use your money: gas for your car, your daily iced coffee, a birthday gift for your sister, saving for college.You will learn the importance of money management and gain valuable practice prioritizing your needs. Make your budget with a pen and paper, use a computer spreadsheet, or look into budgeting apps like Mint or Wally.
- Open a bank account: If you don’t have a bank account yet, now is the time to fix that. The process of opening the account will let you practice conducting a professional business transaction. And saving money and withdrawing funds will offer valuable lessons in prioritization and money management.
- Plan a service project: Maybe the local park needs cleaning? Or you want to raise money for a cause near to your heart? Take it into your own hands. Creating your own service project will be a significant commitment, but you will get an amazing chance to practice leadership skills, teamwork, and communication.
- Learn about mindfulness: It might sound like just another buzzword, but mindfulness has proven benefits for mental health, physical well-being, and even overall happiness. At its heart, mindfulness is just about learning to notice your emotions and preventing them from overwhelming you, a skill that will certainly come in handy throughout life. To get started, read our primer on mindfulness or check out some of the most popular meditation apps, such as Headspace and Calm.
- Write a letter to the editor: See something around town that you think needs to change? Read a newspaper article that got you thinking? Write a letter to your local paper expressing your opinions. The process will engage you in your community while honing your communication and critical thinking skills.
- Cook dinner: Preparing nutritious food on a budget is one of the most important -- and overlooked -- skills you can learn. Ask a parent or other adult to teach you the basics, then strike out on your own. Consult recipes, make a grocery list, plan a timeline for the prep work, and then cook a meal for your family.
- Go away: Spending time away from home can be a crash course in all sorts of life skills, from getting yourself out the door on time to creative problem-solving. And the confidence, independence, and self-knowledge you can learn from being on your own are hard to beat. So consider an academic summer program on a college campus, an outdoor trek, or even an adventure abroad.
- Attend an event: Maybe it’s the grand opening of a local business, a lecture at a nearby college, or even a town board meeting. The goal is to watch how different professionals present themselves and interact. Then get in on the act yourself. Try introducing yourself to people, telling them a bit about yourself, and asking some questions about what they do. It is never too soon to start networking.
- Do something that scares you: Have terrible stage fright? Find a karaoke night and grab the microphone. Scared of heights? Take a trip to a zipline. Facing down your fears is a great way to understand your own strengths and weaknesses, build confidence, and learn resilience.
- Throw a party: No, not a secret rager while your parents are out of town. The process of planning and executing a birthday party for your mother, a going-away party for your friend headed off to college, or a cookout for your coworkers will give you important experience creating a plan of action, prioritizing tasks, and setting and sticking to a budget.