Things Every 18-Year-Old Should Know

By Brad Thompson, FPD’s Director of College Counseling

One of the things this old English major likes to do over the summer is to catch up on some reading.  This past summer, I looked into one of the “hot” books as recommended by others in college guidance.  This book is called How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims, Dean of Freshman and Undergraduate Advising at Stanford University.

As you can see, the title is pretty catchy to an educator (specifically someone who works mostly with high school students), and it is also pretty catchy to parents as well.  While reading the book, I was particularly struck by a checklist she came up with in chapter six.  The list contained practical things that she says eighteen-year-olds need to know before they head off to college.  As I read through the list, I was intrigued by what could impact our seniors but also what could impact all ages as they head toward their senior year.  I sought how I might encourage others (including my own 14-year-old, 10-year-old, and 5-year-old) as they moved towards their young adult years.  And as we all know, time does indeed fly!

Allow me to use her list (in bold) and add some of my own thoughts towards how this can play out in a school and family setting.

A Different Kind of Checklist

An 18-year-old must be able to talk to strangers:

Bottom line is that they need to talk to adults, period!  This needs to start young.  Have your student go to ask their teacher something, have them talk to their coaches, have them talk to their college counselors, and have them talk to college representatives of colleges they are interested in attending.  Have them do something as simple as ordering their own food at a restaurant.  The more they practice this, the more ready they will be to talk to a roommate, an advisor, a college professor, a landlord, or even to a future employer down the road.  

An 18-year-old must be able to find his way around:

Those who know me might laugh that I am advocating that students learn how to navigate places due to my own sense of direction, or lack thereof.  However, it is critical that students begin to learn their way around their own town or as they go to other towns.  Have them drive and have them navigate ways to new places.  I am shocked about how little some of our students know about even navigating Macon.

When they are young, ask them which way to turn as you go to a destination.  One of the best things my mom did when I turned 15 was to have me drive through Atlanta to my grandparents.  At the time, I was a little concerned, but looking back, it was so helpful.  I learned the city and the confidence to drive in and around the city that a lot of my friends did not get to do until later.  All of this will pay off as they go to a new college town, navigate a city on a mission trip, or go to a new city for an internship or job interview.

An 18-year-old must be able to manage his assignments, workload, and deadlines.

This is pretty much a no-brainer.  However, this must begin early.  The more we take care of these things for them; the more they don’t learn to become responsible.  This moves all the way throughout high school.

If we do things for them, how will they become responsible college students when we, as parents and educators, are not there for them?  How will they become responsible grad students or employees if they don’t begin to practice these habits?  How will they be responsible spouses and parents as well?  Don’t do everything for them! Often, we don’t want them to miss an assignment or deadline because they may face a consequence.  Wouldn’t the consequence teach them so much more about life?

An 18-year-old must be able to contribute to the running of a household.

Wow!  Now, please use wisdom depending on the age of the student.  There are and have been child labor laws in our country for a long time.  The responsibilities must increase as they get older. My oldest can get up on her own, get her breakfast and get ready on her own.  My youngest can barely get dressed or buckle himself up on his own (some of that is age but mostly it is because he has two older sisters).  One is 14 and one is 5, and our expectations are different.  One could be leaving in 4 years and one has a long time to go.

How will they know how to take care of themselves or a household if we don’t ask them to help when they are younger?  They have to do their share and that share increases as they get older. Even to the time when parents are no longer around.  We are not going to go off to college with them.  If we don’t increase this, we are creating future issues with roommates, spouses, and even their own children down the road.  For the sake of all future roommates, start early!

An 18-year-old must be able to handle interpersonal problems.

That means that we, as parents, don’t “handle” or “fix” everything.  A common question my wife and I ask our kids after someone begins whining is, “Is anyone bleeding?”  The point we are making is that they need to handle something that is small in nature.  If it is big enough to need a parent, then let’s talk.  Our view is down the road.  Our view is to issues with a college roommate, a friend, a spouse, or a co-worker.  They need to be able to handle those issues and not wait on us to do so.

An-18-year-old must be able to cope with ups and downs of courses and workloads, college-level work, competition, tough teachers, bosses and others.

Again, it is okay for them to struggle.  Raise your hand if your life has not had any downs.  Exactly.  Life is full of the ups and, of course, the downs.  If it weren’t for some of the downs, we would not grow in our faith to trust in God.  The times in my life where I have grown the most are those where I was in a “down.”  I have to allow my children to have some downs so that they can grow in their faith.  They will be okay!

 

This list is, of course, just part of the complete picture. However, it gives perspective to the importance of combining lessons learned at home with lessons learned in the classroom, all of them on the foundation of a biblical world view. I encourage each of us as parents to take a step back and think about the lessons we learned as students that we now really appreciate or even lessons we wish we had learned. For as it says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”


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Brad Thompson has been in education for 21 years and just finished his 20th year at FPD.  He graduated from Mercer (’95) and majored in English and History.  He also attended Covenant College (’02) where he received a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership.  At FPD, Brad has taught English, History and Bible and has coached multiple sports including football, baseball, basketball and tennis.  For the past 9 years, he has served as the Director of College Counseling.  He currently serves on Samford University’s Counselor Advisory Board and serves as President of Mercer’s Counselor Advisory Board.  He and his wife, Katherine, have three children. He is a member of Ingleside Baptist Church and enjoys reading, running and watching sports as his hobbies.