13 Things They Don’t Teach You in High School (But Should)

Good ol’ adulthood… When you’re a teenager, it never comes soon enough, but when you’re an adult, you find yourself wondering why in the world your teachers never taught you how to actually prepare for it.

I remember my senior year of high school. I was taking a precalculus class that was kicking my butt… I mean REALLY kicking my butt. You see, I was never super great with all the advanced math stuff to begin with, but I had an even harder time grasping concepts that were so far from what I wanted to do with my life. I began to think to myself, “Why in the world don’t they teach me something that is actually relevant?”

If I sat in my precalculus class today, I can tell you that I would probably bomb any test that was given to me because I have absolutely no need for all those variables and formulas in my current profession. Thinking back to all of this made me start to think about all the things they don’t teach you in high school, but really should.

After you read through this list, I’d love to hear what things you would add to it!

Things They Don’t Teach You in High School

High school student tips and college tips for managing money, being successful in life, and more. Click through to read the 13 things you should know how to do before adulthood.

1. Anything That Has to Do with Banking

Oh my goodness, I am so thankful that I actually took an elective life skills class because I at least learned some of these basic things before I had a bank account of my own. Now, I do hope there are at least some schools out there who are teaching these things, but I would say that a majority of them don’t have this type of stuff in their curriculum. Some of the banking things they don’t teach you in high school are:

  • Creating a basic budget (My free college budget printable for students is a good starting place)
  • Opening a checking and savings account
  • Understanding interest rates – this is especially important when it comes to future finances. Which is why knowing how to convert interest rates for things like savings and also knowing costs of interest when getting loans or mortgages can prove very useful. This is when the apy calculator can help.
  • Filling out checks and deposit slips
  • Obtaining money orders
  • Comparing services from bank to bank and/or credit unions

It is important that we gain a greater understanding of general finances as this can help us to be more equipped in the big wide world.

2. How to Fill Out the FAFSA

Sweet jiminy Christmas, I am so glad that the process for filling out the FAFSA has gotten easier over the years, but it’s still not a fun time. I’ve been working with some high school seniors on filling theirs out and it’s just bringing back nightmares from when I did mine. Not only do you have to worry about filling out all the information correctly, but you may even have to gather documentation for verification later on!

To help you with the entire college financial aid process, I’ve created these posts:

3. How to Complete Your Taxes

I’m surprised that this is one of the things they don’t teach you in high school, especially since pretty much everyone has complete their taxes every year. Although there are free online programs like TurboTax, it can still be a traumatizing experience if you have no idea what you’re doing.

Along with knowing how to complete your taxes, schools should start educating students on what they need in order to complete their taxes. Forms like the W2, 1098-T, 1099, etc. should all be briefly explained.

4. How to Prepare for a Job Interview

I will give credit and say that some schools are stepping up to the plate and teaching high school students how to create resumes and cover letters, but one of the things that they don’t teach you along with all of those things is how to conduct yourself in a job interview. Here are some of the points I’m talking about:

  • Dressing the part (what clothes are appropriate, inappropriate)
  • Creating a portfolio of work, if applicable
  • Answering questions with examples
  • Researching the company beforehand
  • Coming up with questions to ask the employer regarding the position

This is another one of the big items on my list of things they don’t teach you in high school because the job interview is often the selling point to get the position. If you don’t have the right skills, then you may struggle greatly to find employment.

Here are some Interview Tips You Should Always Follow.

5. How to Appropriately Post on Social Media

I didn’t have to worry about this when I was in high school, but I guarantee you that this is one of the biggest things that needs to be addressed to students. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen students post profile pictures of themselves smoking, drinking, or doing something else that isn’t very appropriate.

I think one of the main issues here is that students often don’t realize the negative implications that come along with posting inappropriate things. I’m not just talking about pictures here. There are plenty of statuses that can give outsiders the wrong impressions as well.

Some Other Things They Don’t Teach You in High School (But Should)

6. How to understand investments

7. Planning for retirement – you can learn now from this self directed ira guide

8. Where to find resources in case of an emergency

9. How to get access to public records (e.g. health, education, motor)

10. Creating a budget based on a specific income

11. Appropriate public speaking skills (not just reading a paper in front of the class)

12. How to write according to grading rubrics

13. Email etiquette

What are some of the other things they don’t teach you in high school (but should) that you can think of?

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  • Traveling Cats
    February 13, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    So so true. I’m thinking the same thing all the time. At school they never teach us the most important and practical things, like finances, human psychology, cooking, and housekeeping.

    • Manders
      September 2, 2018 at 7:50 am

      It’s called Family and Consumer Science, which should be mandatory.

  • Jessica Doll
    February 15, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    These are all so true. I think they need to update their curriculum based on today’s world. But I also feel like some of this is stuff that parent’s should teach.


    • Sarah
      August 2, 2017 at 7:54 pm

      parents *should* teach a lot of it but many of them don’t or don’t know any of it themselves. i sure with i was taught a lot of this in high school. or at least had someone make themselves available to teach it to me outside of class…

  • Myrabev
    February 16, 2015 at 9:24 am

    I agree I wish they taught half of these things in schools but I am fortunate my uni did teach about banking, posting on social media, doing taxes etc so fortunate in that sense.

  • Lecy
    February 16, 2015 at 9:36 am

    These are all true. Unfortunately, I was in high school before there was a computer in every home and cell phones were unimaginable! I would also like to see schools teaching students about credit and how it can affect your life. A lot of credit card companies target new college students and these kids end up racking up debt and had no idea it could happen to them. Great tips Tori!

    • Tori
      February 16, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      Great points about credit! Such an important thing that most high schoolers know nothing about!

  • Katie
    February 16, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Oh my god this is so so true! I always used to think what’s the point of this?! And now I wonder why we never learnt that sort of thing – banking and all the bills etc relating to home life is so important. I guess they assume your parents are supposed to teach you that sort of thing?!

    Katie <3

    • Tori
      February 16, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      That’s the sad thing… I think parents have taken a backseat to teaching because they think the schools will do it!

      • Karen Armstrong
        January 22, 2019 at 4:15 pm

        I think parents have taken a back seat because they don’t know how to do it themselves!

  • joanna
    February 16, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Great post! They really should teach the younger generations more about finances so that they be more knowledgable about avoiding debt and such.

    • Tori
      February 16, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      I absolutely agree! I think teaching finances would help solve a lot of problems later on in life.

  • ashley
    February 16, 2015 at 11:01 am

    This is all SO true! I learned so many pointless things in high school and wish I would have come out with WAY more real world skills.

  • rowan
    February 16, 2015 at 11:15 am

    So true! Here in the UK, we don’t have that either and it would help so much – especially as we leave school at 16 here!

    • Tori
      February 16, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      Whew! 16 is early! I left home when I was 17 and thought that was rough.

  • Robin
    February 16, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    This is all so true! Thankfully, my parents took it upon themselves to teach me these things. 🙂

  • Britney
    February 16, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    oh my goodness! A girl after my own heart! I totally agree!

  • brandy
    February 17, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    There is so much truth packed in this! One thing I would add is how to study/test taking skills…. for those who do go to college, they are looking at 1/4 of the class time but 4x more study time. I had to learn how to study the material without the easy study guides handed to me in high school.

    • Tori
      February 17, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Great point, Brandy! I agree that they don’t teach good studying and test taking skills enough!

  • Tayler Morrell
    February 17, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    As an English and history teacher myself, I agree. But, a lot of schools now teach financial literacy. Also, in Utah, 7th graders are taught that kind of stuff–they call the class Career and Technology Education.. They have a unit on computer usage, successful habits, job searching.resumes, finances, study skills, etc. It’s very useful!

    • Tori
      February 17, 2015 at 5:17 pm

      That’s so great to hear, Taylor! I wish that more states would require a class like that!

  • Abby
    February 18, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I’m a high school business and technology who would have loved to learn all of these things in school. Now that I teach, I do cover 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, and 12 as part of required curriculum. My state (Mississippi) just redid the curriculum and next year I’ll also be covering 5 and 13. The classes I teach are hard, because students aren’t used to “real world” problems that sometimes have no clear right or wrong answer, but every parent I talk to tells me how happy they are that their child is learning these things now, instead of through trial and error like they did.

  • Cori
    February 23, 2015 at 12:48 am

    i totally agree with you and would add how to study for a test. I sailed through high school and had a rude awakening in college. I realized I never learned how to study for an exam.

  • Ashley Nicholas
    February 26, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    I’m so thankful that I went to a FABULOUS high school program and was able to learn so many useful things! That’s why parents need to teach their children these things too because unfortunately most schools won’t 🙁

    • Tori
      February 26, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      You are so right – parents do need to model and teach these things so that kids learn!

  • Nikki @ MBAsahm
    March 2, 2015 at 8:48 am

    You hit the nail on the head with ALL of these!! I always find it crazy that we spent so much time in high school on subjects that honestly don’t apply to everyday life. Money management is such a huge one. One thing that I also don’t think they really tell you (though more so in college) is to try and pick a career that will realistically work with the lifestyle you want. I was a little caught off guard by how hard it is to work and take care of my son the way I wanted, so I ended up having to make a difficult choice…had someone pushed me to pick something more flexible or family friendly, I could have had more options. Awesome list! Hopefully they change this for our kids 🙂

    • Tori
      March 2, 2015 at 8:50 am

      Definitely agree with you on the realistic lifestyles that come with the various degrees and college majors. I really do hope that our schools realize that having these life skills is an important thing! I would love to see a required class that teaches at least the basics of these skills.

      • Jane
        March 3, 2018 at 1:14 pm

        I taught these skills to my 5 children & some of their friends. I saw the need & developed a curriculum. I now teach it as a required course at our high school.

        • Tori
          March 5, 2018 at 5:15 pm

          That is so great, Jane! I think every school should require life skills courses that teach these topics.

  • Sagan
    March 2, 2015 at 9:08 am

    OMG YES! This drives me crazy! And not only do they not teach it in high school, but they also don’t teach it in university! I feel like our entire society would be so much better off if people knew how to save money or get ready for a job interview etc. One of my favorite courses in university was a public speaking course, which was a requirement for my rhetoric degree – it completely dealt with my discomfort of public speaking.

    Things like self-defense and how to fix a running toilet and how to be CRITICAL THINKERS are also important skills that I feel would be useful mandatory teachings in school 🙂

  • Colleen
    March 2, 2015 at 9:13 am

    These are so true! I really hope they add a social media elective to the curriculum before my boys get old enough to get in trouble there! But they should also teach kids about work/life balance and how certain careers will require more time than others. Just a thought.

    • Tori
      March 2, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      Absolutely agree with the work/life balance… something definitely worth teaching!

  • Krysta
    March 2, 2015 at 10:48 am

    I have always thought they should teach a course on being a waitress because it gives you so many unknown skills such as: people skills, handling money, multitasking, how to properly tip, etc. While it is usually just a job for people as an in between, it adds valuable lessons and it is always SO OBVIOUS the people who have never worked in the service industry.

    • Tori
      March 2, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      Great perspective, Krysta. I never worked in the food industry but I’ve worked with all types of people. Definitely a lot of lessons can be learned from that!

      • Lauri
        August 14, 2017 at 5:00 pm

        Honestly, I think everyone should have to work in some service type job. Learning how to deal with the rather difficult public is something everyone should learn regardless of social status.

  • Courtney LeFan
    March 2, 2015 at 10:52 am

    This is such a great post! I definitely agree with how to file taxes. I also think a “parenting” class should be required for everyone. Let’s face it, there are a lot of young and teenage parents who have no idea what they have gotten themselves into. Plus, it can give the students a whole new appreciation for their parents or guardians.

    • Tori
      March 2, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      Ooo I like the parenting class idea!

  • Ali A
    March 2, 2015 at 11:46 am

    I love this. Not to diminish things they DO teach in school, but the things you listed are SUPER SUPER important and will absolutely be used in life (banking? taxes? yes!). It’s a shame they’ll probably never teach these kinds of things, but they really should.

    The social media one is really interesting, too. Hard to fathom since Facebook and that stuff didn’t exist when I was in HS (AA = old) but it’s so prevalent now and kids should be taught early on how to use it properly, and the repercussions when they don’t.

    • Tori
      March 2, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      I really do wish they would incorporate it into the curriculum somehow. Maybe kids would be more motivated to learn math if they actually calculated out their own investments! Thoughts?

  • Chrisy
    March 2, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Great list! The funny (or embarrassing?) thing is, I probably STILL need a class or two on most of these subjects even though I’m in my 30’s. Like you mentioned with precalculus, who remembers all the high school nonsense when we’ve got to figure out how the world actually works? The closest my school district ever got to a real life skill was to teach us how to write checks in 6th grade. Of course, writing a check is just a cool parlor trick these days, but more along those lines would have been awesome.

    And I love #5. If my Facebook feed is any indication, that may be the only thing that will save the world from all my little cousins 🙂

    • Tori
      March 2, 2015 at 10:11 pm

      I think we could all use a refresher on some of these topics as time goes on. The world changes so quickly that it’s hard to keep up sometimes!

  • lauryn hock
    March 2, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    YES to all of these. Essential life skills! Can we add on teaching to write a resume?

    • Tori
      March 3, 2015 at 7:46 am

      Consider it added! I will have to do another post on this because I think there is so much that could be added!

  • Janice
    March 10, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    I’m Janice, one of your hostesses for the Inspire Me Monday Linky Party. I don’t know if you’re on my schedule for commenting, but it didn’t matter. I was so intrigued I clicked on your link. I used to work in a high school and wondered what the things they don’t teach are. I agree with everything you wrote except one–how to prepare for a job interview. My daughter STILL didn’t take the school’s advice and learned the hard way. She had to learn the hard way. She used to be one of the high schoolers that thought MOM always was wrong. =) Thanks for the accurate post and joining our linky party.

    • Tori
      March 10, 2015 at 11:44 pm

      Hi Janice! Thanks for stopping by! I think sometimes learning the hard way is the only way we actually take things seriously sometimes. I would love to see more schools teaching these things, as well as job interviews!

  • Brandi Clevinger
    March 14, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    This may go with number one, but they should teach about credit. How to read your credit report, why it’s important, and how to keep a high score. OH, and parenting classes. Like, real ones. lol

    Thanks for sharing at Inspire Me Mondays!

    • Tori
      March 17, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      YES! Oh my goodness, I honestly don’t think I knew much, if anything, about credit when I was in high school. SO important because it impacts so many things.

  • Mary
    March 16, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Let just say I agree with it all. If I start going into detail I might get carried away. One thing I would add would be looking adults in the eye when speaking to them. I’m a mom of teen boys. This stuff if just life essential!

    • Tori
      March 17, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      Good point, Mary! I think that a lot of kids struggle to do this in today’s society – especially when they have cell phones with them 24/7!

  • Winne
    February 27, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    They also don’t teach you time management very well, or how to deal with stress/anxiety.

  • Kim
    May 19, 2017 at 4:51 am

    Jessica, are you a teacher?

    I am. I am a high school teacher. We actually do stress the importance of ALL of the above, minus the retirement planning. Get real, please. So now the high school teacher needs to also take on the role of financial planner, guidance counselor, parent, accountant and personal secretary?

    At the school I work at, we offer courses that pretty much cover all of the aforementioned areas in your blog. Students need to choose to take that course, however. Did you not choose to take those courses? Did you go to a very small or private school? A charter school perhaps? I appears to me that your high school education is lacking, however, it is YOUR responsibility at some point in your life to take charge of the things you need to learn to be a responsible ADULT. Your probably made some mistakes along the way? That is a good thing sometimes, as that is how we learn and grow.
    Teaching high school kids about retirement? Take a human development class, study the development of the pre-frontal cortex in adolescents, and then update your blog. At some point in your life you need to teach yourself a thing or two about finances. We all do. Expecting the world to spoon feed you every bit of life lessons, isn’t really growth is it?

    • Kim
      May 19, 2017 at 4:58 am

      Thank you Tori by the way, and I apologize for calling you Jessica. I was replying to Jessica above as well. Can I also mention that students often skip taking these courses because of all the focus on AP classes these days. I totally agree that these are such important lessons, but I agree with Jessica in that parents also hold some responsibility here. Thank you.

      • Tori
        May 20, 2017 at 2:18 pm

        Hi Kim,

        Thank you for your honest comments. I have indeed work in the education field and in the schools, and while I agree that teachers shouldn’t have to fill all of these shoes, I do think it’s important that more of these things be included in the curriculum. I didn’t come from a family where these things were taught – no one went to college, my mom was heavily in debt, no one saved for retirement, etc. Additionally, my high school didn’t have a lot of courses on these subjects available. Even if they did, I wouldn’t have been able to take them as I was on a more rigorous course track so that I could get college credits and be better prepared. The internet has come a long way over the years and it’s much easier for children to learn how to do these things on their own now, but that wasn’t really the case when I was in school.

        As for your comment about human development and the pre-frontal cortex, I understand it very well as I have a master’s degree in psychology and took a concentration in child and adolescent development. I still stand by my point that it’s good to introduce these topics at a young age so that even if they don’t take them seriously then, they will have some sort of experience with it when they finally do come around later on in adulthood.

        I would never expect the world to spoon feed anyone anything – we’ve all had our struggles and I’ve definitely had to make my share of mistakes to get where I am and learn what I have. What I wanted to convey here is at least introducing these ideas in school so that they aren’t completely strange topics for students once they get to adulthood.

  • Nancy
    January 22, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    Well I’m a baby boomer and when we were in school we learned cooking ,sewing ,bookkeeping , how to write checks basic skills somewhere along the line I remember learning how to fill out applications for jobs. There was woodshop there was mechanics , but then you were either College prep or just general things have changed quite a bit