Have you ever thought about the moment after graduating with a slight tinge of dread? Are you a little uncertain about how the “real world” actually works? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Universities eagerly welcome students with the hope that the next batch of graduates leaving through the gates are the all-important “world changers”. But how do you change the world if you don’t know how to do your taxes?
Although universities offer a myriad of academic courses to develop our knowledge on astrophysics, there isn’t much focus on how to deal with real-world stuff. The question is, could universities do more to better equip students with skills applicable in real-world situations? I say yes.
For instance, since 2007, Harvard University has been offering students the possibility of attending "non-credit" classes such as "Car Care Basics" or "Wardrobe 101". These are part of a larger curriculum which includes "Financial Literacy, Health and Wellness, Leadership and Teamwork in Organisations, Personal Development and even Practical and Household Skills". It comes as no surprise that these courses are often fully booked, and some have waitlists.
There are definitely ways you can develop your skills throughout your time here. You can stop by the career service and ask for help with your job applications; although, that again has students dependent on the expertise of someone with real-world skills. You could also join a club or take an online class on Coursera, often at a cost. While these services do indeed increase our chances of success by equipping us with new abilities, they are often solely career-focused. They omit the day-to-day lives we lead outside of our classrooms and the lives we will soon live outside of the comfort of the student status we now enjoy.
Some may argue that our lack of "life skills" is our own responsibility and perhaps a sign of laziness. But is that really true? To quote the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, in our fast-paced world “the only thing that is constant is change”. And constant change can be hard to keep up with. The nature of jobs has changed, life is much more fragmented than it used to be and different rules apply for every specific situation. To manage it all, both universities and students need to adapt. Introducing classes on life skills would answer some of the big questions we might be too afraid to ask. At the same time, universities will have prepared individuals who are more focused on achieving their goals rather than stressing over the small things. A win-win situation for everyone, I’d say.
I’m sure that you’ve probably been told at least once by someone who is now working that you should make the most out of your university years, because this is when you will have the most time to spare. If that is the case (and it is) shouldn’t we be using this time to learn how to deal with the real world before facing it? Some of us, if not most, will leave university already in debt. This responsibility entails some form of financial skills that I, for one, do not have. Managing your finances is a crucial aspect of life, regardless of what you are majoring in. How many times have you found yourself at the end of the month wishing you possessed some sort of money savings techniques you could apply?
Responsibility, consistency nor perseverance can be taught, but through elective courses that teach smaller aspects that seem daunting and you would rather avoid, we can become better prepared to handle our lives on a day-to-day basis, so that we can begin making a difference where we believe it matters most.
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