5 things I wish I knew before graduating from high school

June 13, 2012 | Posted in: High School

Summer is a perfect time for teenagers to hone important life skills that will serve them well beyond high school. This week, Capital Region BOCES Communications summer intern Ean Dunn shares the first of an occasional contribution with insights from experience he’s gained as a college student.

As a current college student, there are many things I wish I had known before leaving the wonderful, safe haven that was my parents’ house. Growing up, my mom did the laundry, my dad did the dishes, my sister vacuumed, and I was left to take care of the garbage (yuck!). Moving away to college provided me with independence, but not without a few tough lessons thrown in.

Parents, you and your teen can prepare for some of these, and maybe avoid making the same mistakes as me.

The following is a list of just five of about 1,000,000 things I wish I knew before graduating high school.

5. How to do laundry.

Laundry, I discovered, is one of the simplest tasks in the world to do, but the easiest to mess up. I made the tragic mistake of putting a red shirt (accidentally) in with my white clothes. This was a disaster. I had red undershirts for a while, which was not a good look. Introduce your child to your washer and dryer and explain how it works, and tell them that it’s all right to mess up. But remember my red shirt story!

4. Guard your valuables.

My roommate lost his key within one week of getting it, so we had to leave our door unlocked so he could go in and out. (He didn’t want to pay the $100 replacement fee). I thought it would be OK, and locked up my computer. Unfortunately, I forgot about my brand-new, just delivered headphones. To this day I have no clue who took them, although I believe someone simply walked in, saw them and bolted once they swiped them. Lesson learned – the hard way.

3. Find free things.

On campus, there are always fundraisers and free food giveaways, not to mention the holy grail – free energy drinks. Find the places where these vendors go, befriend them, learn their schedule, and take advantage of their free offers. The key concept here is “it’s free!”

Also, make friends with lunch truck vendors. This can only be a good thing. Introduce yourself; make them feel like you want to be talking with them. It may take you four to five trips to the food truck before the vendor knows your name, but it is completely worth the effort. They deal with angry, groggy people every day. Be the light that shines through! Once you’re “in” with these guys or gals, they will often show their appreciation by giving you free things, or discounted items, which is awesome. About the only thing better than making friends at college is getting free lunch truck food, believe me.

2. Buy school textbooks USED from the bookstore, from students who have already taken the class, or from an online store.

(Amazon.com works the best, plus you can get free membership in Amazon Prime for a couple of months, which offers free shipping. For students who use their school email to sign up, Amazon Prime membership is also $60 cheaper ($30 total for a year).

Also, before you go out and buy any required books, talk to your professor, either by email or in person, to see if there are other acceptable, cheaper options, such as buying older editions. This can save you a bundle. The amount of money I have already thrown at books is unsettling. It’s well worth the effort to find ways to save, so you may not have to drop 400 big ones every semester.

1. Learn how to study.

Studying certainly isn’t the most fun thing in the world, but it serves a fantastic purpose. Kids, including me growing up, often don’t know how to study for tests and quizzes. And, in this age of instant information, Google and Wikipedia can become a detriment to learning. It used to be that research was the way to learn things, which included digging into those scary things with pages – you may know them as books. Today, you can go into your Google or Wiki app and simply type in the topic you want to know about, and boom, instant information. Parents, teach your kids good study habits, help them with their homework, and show them how to learn. It will serve them well through their college years and beyond.


Many students are surprised at the differences in studying for college courses versus how they studied in high school. See Dartmouth College’s Improving Concentration, Memory, and Motivation for helpful information.

Good study tips and study skills to help you succeed in school and in life. See academictips.org

Advice for the college bound student is also available at collegeexpress.com

Visit your school guidance office to find a wealth of resources for students and parents to assist in everything related to career planning, finding a college, financial aid, etc.

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