What Real-Life Skills Do Students Need?

December 12, 2023 | Waterloo School

Screenshot 2023-12-12 at 3.30.36 PM EDIT

Imagine this: you’re seventeen. How do you prepare—for a changing world? How do you become necessarily adaptable and wise about your life ahead?

At Waterloo, we don’t want to be reactive to change and uncertainty. We seek to build capacity to look ahead and respond to needs and opportunities as they arise. We’re preparing our students to be a part of the 21st-century world that will be, not the world that was.

And a key to that is preparation is experiences with great adults.

What do our kids need?

What do high school students actually need from adults? What do they need to know before they leave high school?

Being Waterloo, we asked them that very question. Many of their answers fell into some clear (very sensible) categories…


What did almost every group have on their mind? Food! Perhaps not surprisingly, our high schoolers’ number one goal was learning how to cook for themselves and take care of themselves out in the real world.

  • Cooking and nutrition
  • Making appointments
  • Keeping up with medical records
  • Time management


Coming in a close second, every group had big questions about finances—everything from basic budgeting to preparing taxes and investing in the stock market.

  • Budgeting
  • Loans
  • Debt
  • Insurance
  • Taxes
  • Bills
  • Investing

Professional skills

Of course, many students were keenly interested in getting their first job and navigating a fulfilling career.

  • Job interviews
  • Networking
  • Getting hired/fired
  • Reading contracts
  • Managing a business
  • Work-life balance

Social skills

Demonstrating some noteworthy self-awareness, many Waterloo students were also interested in some softer life skills—things that don’t appear on any test. How do you manage quality relationships with friends, peers, and even yourself?

  • Public speaking
  • Healthy relationships
  • Handling rejection
  • Being confident
  • Staying focused
  • Mindfulness
  • Empathy

Good-to-know life skills

Rounding out the list, our students had lots of questions about life after college, featuring everything from car maintenance to jury duty. How do people learn these things anyway?

  • Car and home maintenance
  • Basic first aid
  • How to handle an emergency
  • How to serve jury duty
  • What to do if you’re pulled over
  • Self-defence
  • Taking care of pets and animals
  • Traveling solo
  • Woodworking
  • Writing music
  • Acting
  • And more!

Become a mentor at Waterloo

This year’s Big Cheese campaign isn’t just about financial support, it’s about real, personal investment.

We’re inviting all our community members to consider a mentorship role at Waterloo. Whether you can engage in an ongoing relationship or simply share one coffee, your time, your experience, and your support means the world to these high schoolers.

Support growth and adaptation at Waterloo

We invite you to be a part of this exciting new chapter. Visit our giving page to make a year-end, tax-deductible gift to the Big Cheese campaign.

Waterloo School

Waterloo School