What graduating seniors should really know about starting the college experience | VailDaily.com
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What graduating seniors should really know about starting the college experience

Alex Miller
Photo illustration by Dawn Beacon and Bret HartmanAlgebra classes probably wont help you buy groceries, but those skills will help you balance your budget.
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Ask the average 30-year-old how often he or she uses trigonometry, algebra, French or calculus, and you may just get a blank look. Thats because unless these people are employed as some kind of engineer, scientist, diplomat or mathematician, chances are they have never used these skills since the last test they took in high school.Now, before those who teach these things mass outside my home with torches and pitchforks, let me just say that I understand perfectly well that there are plenty of people who do need to know things. I also understand the beauty of things like French and calculus. My point is that the people who need to know these things represent a relatively small percentage of the population probably less than 10 percent.Compare, now, the number of people who need to know how to balance a checkbook and a household budget, prepare a resume or cover letter, buy a car, secure a home mortgage or shop for health or life insurance. Thats closer to 100 percent of the population.How much of that did high school prepare you for? Very little, probably and college is often no better. I graduated from CU-Boulder without having the foggiest idea what a resume was or how to create one. To this day, I scowl at pleas for money from my alma mater because I still blame it for kicking me out into the cold, cruel world with hardly a clue. (And, OK, I have some blame to lay on myself as well.)So, here are some of the classes Id make sure were in the curriculum at our local high schools if I had any say in the matter: Real World 101 & 102: As mentioned above, a class of at least two semesters that touches on all the basics of grown-up life, such as household budgeting, resume and cover-letter writing, car buying, insurance buying, etc. Theres an enormous world of decisions and choices out there that a little foreknowledge can make a bit less daunting.Credit & Debt 101: Theres almost nothing scarier than college freshmen waving freshly minted credit cards around, because one can be almost certain that, if daddys not paying them back, no one is. Many of the banks that issue credit cards are greedy, rapacious, unscrupulous merchants of debt who will issue enormous lines of credit to anyone with a pulse. This class would focus on the wise use of credit, how to build it without crippling debt and some real-world scenarios about just how long itll take you to pay back, say, $5,000 at 22 percent. (Hint: A long time!) Vice 101: Many a fresh-faced college student has gone down the dark road of addiction once freed from the watchful eyes of mom and dad. The opposite of useless scare-em classes, Vice 101 would teach seniors about wine, beer and spirits, encouraging them to try it in moderation (in the unlikely event such an occasion presents itself on campus) so as to avoid having to drink it by the vat. Also covered would be information about narcotics, hallucinogens, designer drugs and other potentially troublesome substances likely to be encountered in the halls of higher learning. Vice 102: Sex is the topic here, with more real information about all the nasty diseases, what life looks like when youre 20 and pregnant, day-after drugs, condom use and all that good stuff. Information about how to be a good boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband would also be included here, as well as the joys of parenting when the time is right.Finally, no student from my high school would go anywhere without being assigned a mentor. Whether theyre going to college, off to work or somewhere else, all of them would have a person not too far ahead of them in their 20s to stay in touch with. The mentor would be someone from their same high school or college, and theyd be a non-family member who checks in on a regular basis via phone or e-mail to see how the newly created adult is doing. Theyd offer advice, wag a finger now and again and let the grad know theres someone out there who knows the road they walk and cares about how well theyre doing.I sent this last idea to Hank Brown at CU. He sent me a form-letter e-mail, but I think its an idea whose time has come. In the meantime, Im accepting donations for the construction of Reality High, somewhere in the wilderness north of Wolcott.Vail Colorado


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