21 things every student should know how to do by graduation

Programs are springing up to teach resilience and other skills to help young people transition into adulthood.

Of course, a rising number of students are already adults—roughly a quarter of American college students are over age 30. But some students want more support with the post-college transition, and colleges and other organizations are working to fill the gap.

For example, an "adulting" course at East Carolina University (ECU) was launched after administrators noticed a spike in demand for counseling services. The program focuses on resilience, stress management, and mindfulness. It's based on workshops at California Polytechnic State University and Central Washington University.

Also see: Demand for mental health services is higher than ever

"Adulting" programs fill a void left behind as classes like home economics have been de-emphasized in recent years, according to Holly Swyers, an associate professor of anthropology at Lake Forest College who has researched adulthood.

Another program, the Launching Emerging Adults Program at New York-Presbyterian Youth Anxiety Center, encourages students to push beyond their comfort zones and develop coping mechanisms that will serve them later in life. The program is the result of a partnership between New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center, and Weill Cornell Medicine.

Rachel Ginsberg, a clinical psychologist with the program, recommends certain "exposure tasks" to students that target specific skills or common sources of anxiety. "These tasks help them validate themselves and not be scared to ask for what they want," Ginsberg says, adding "In essence, these tasks help to shrink anxiety and avoidance down to size."

The Adulting School in Maine also has roots in counseling. Rachel Weinstein, a co-founder and psychotherapist, says she saw many of her clients struggle with their transition to adulthood. The Adulting School offers classes in fundamental adult skills—and a social support network.

"You know, when you see 10 people feeling like they're the only one, and they're all struggling with the same thing, you think, let's get these people together so they can learn this stuff and not feel so isolated and ashamed," Weinstein says.

Here are 21 of the "adulting" skills that students learn in these programs:

  1. Identify your current emotion and explain it to someone
  2. Delay gratification—do the task you don't want to do first
  3. Turn in an assignment that you know is not perfect
  4. Ask for clarification about part of an assignment
  5. Ask a question in class about a part of the topic that's confusing to you
  6. Order a meal, but then change your order
  7. Find a group of students you don't know and ask them a question
  8. Change a tire
  9. Use deep breathing and other relaxation exercises during a stressful moment
  10. Schedule your own doctor and dentist appointments
  11. Make your bed—and learn to fold a fitted sheet
  12. Stick to a sleep schedule that includes at least seven hours of sleep per night
  13. Cook a day's worth of meals—no eggs, cereal, or pasta allowed
  14. Return an item to a store
  15. Wake up to an alarm
  16. Pay your bills on time
  17. Patch a hole in a wall
  18. Build a budget and stick to it
  19. Be able to compare various credit card, debit card, and loan offers
  20. File important personal paperwork in a safe place
  21. Change a car's oil

(Tugend, New York Times, 6/7; Wight, NPR, 2/21; Donaldson James, NBC News, 9/4/2016)

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