Reality Check

by • December 1, 2014 • 2014, December 2014, Expert Advice, Home Life, Teens and Pre-Teens

4 Things Your High School Senior Should Know Before Flying the Coop

Remember when you were suffering from “senoritis” in high school, and you just couldn’t wait to graduate? Well, every year, thousands of high school seniors across Orange County still seem to come down with this affliction, anxious to spring into college or straight into the workforce. While seniors can manage a locker combination, rotating classes, sports and maybe an after school job, there are a few fundamental things that every senior should know before taking off for the big leagues.

Making Sense of Dollars and Cents

They can square roots, but can they balance a checkbook? Do they understand what debt really is? Maybe your high school senior has a savings account, or even a credit card, but does he understand the nuts and bolts of interest?

“Few things are more powerful than compounding interest,” says Jim Gilmore, CFP® with Integrated Capital Management, referring to the way money can build on itself – whether it is money owed or money saved – which, over time, can have enormous impact on financial security. This is particularly important to understand for those who are jumping headfirst into college with student loans or sudden freedom to get credit and take on consumer debt.

If your high-schooler has a savings or checking account for which she has learned to be responsible, she’s a step ahead. But, if your high school senior could walk away from home with one financial mantra on repeat in her head, Gilmore would have it be: “It’s not about what you make, it’s about what you save.”

Automotive Basics

A little more freedom appeared at age 16 with the ability to drive, and perhaps without the responsibility of car maintenance. That seems to change when adulthood officially sets in. John Pascal of Chapman Auto Repair of Orange has a handful of basics every young adult should know about his or her car. Knowing how to change a tire is at the top of the list, after confirming that the car is equipped with the jack and spare. Learning to check the oil is a close second. “Cars burn oil naturally, especially cars with over fifty-thousand miles,” says Pascal, while explaining the importance of learning to check the oil level monthly. Making sure the wipers work, that the wiper blade is good, the location of the hazard button, and that it, too, works, are also strong suggestions. “Keep a flashlight in the car and get AAA – the memberships that includes 100 miles of towing, because how often are you going to break down just a few miles from your house?”

Proactively Safe

In a world where young women are headed off to college unfortunately armed with pepper spray and rape whistles, there are better approaches to safety than living in fear. Broadening overall awareness of surroundings is paramount to remaining safe, in conjunction with following instincts.

“It’s about channeling intuition,” says Paul Benavidez of, a program offering classes in personal protection, safety and security in an urban environment. “It’s about self-defense, but it’s also much more than that. It’s about anti-abduction.” Parents have taken safety a step further by signing their teens up for courses in how to escape duct tape, zip ties, and even handcuffs. (We won’t even start about social media…)

The Working Life

It’s never too early to learn how to interview for a job, and interviewing has increasingly become a skill set of its own. Today’s high school seniors are about to embark on what is arguably one of history’s most competitive employment landscapes. It would behoove them to know how to navigate the job scene, and without necessarily waiting until graduation.

Elaine Buhler, Senior Recruiting Manager at Robert Half International in Irvine has seen her fair share of ambitious interviewees. While technology has multiplied the methods in which potential employees can be interviewed, Buhler stresses that the importance of timeliness remains, well, timeless. When it comes to interviewing, “young people should know that it’s really important to arrive on time, whether it be in person, over the phone, or on Skype,” she says. “They should also make sure to not talk too much, and this includes overselling themselves.”

Buhler reminds us to remind our seniors that the interview goes both ways—with both parties evaluating if the other is a good fit. Companies do their research on potential hires, so it’s important to research the company and know the person conducting the interview prior to the interview itself. You may also want to alert your almost-adult that these days employers are increasingly browsing social media channels to screen candidates.

These four basics are just that—basics. Aside from learning to maintain bank accounts, cars, safety and jobs, there’s so much more—like creating personal connections through networking, realizing bosses and professors are not parental substitutes, and avoiding disastrous romantic relationships. The learning curve can sometimes be steep. M

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