19 Things Every 19-Year-Old Needs to Be Able to Do

Last year Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote an inspiring and thoughtful piece on what our 18-year-olds should be able to do on their own. It followed on the heels of her New York Times bestseller, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.

For most teens, 18 is a huge milestone. It means the end of high school and the beginning of college or employment. I have seen three sons through the first year of college and know that it is a year of immense growth. After a single year in college, or in the workplace, a large amount of adulting has taken place.

So as a nod to Julie, we take a look at what our kids should be able to do, on their own, a year after high school graduation.

What Every 19-Year-Old Should Be Able to Do

1. Write a cover letter and a resume and send an email or make a phone call inquiring about a job. They should be able to search online for job openings or seek out their college career guidance center.

2. Complete a LinkedIn profile and keep it updated. Parental help should consist of proofreading letters, resumes and applications, not writing them.

3. Look for a room or an apartment within budget and work out living arrangements and shared expenses in an equitable and mutually agreed upon manner with roommates. A 19-year-old should be able to negotiate roommate problems around privacy, money and responsibilities as they arise.

4. Call home, without being reminded. Remember family member’s birthdays and other family occasions, without being reminded. Answer texts (within 2 hours) and emails (within 12 hours) … without being reminded.

5. Know how to fill a prescription and use a health insurance card.

6. Be able to locate a health professional, emergency room or walk-in clinic without needing step-by-step parental guidance.

7. A 19-year-old should have some familiarity with their own health history and not need to have parents on speakerphone as they talk to their doctor.

8. Prepare for a job interview by researching the company on both its website and social media.

9. Someone who is nineteen should know how to conduct a job interview with talking points about their qualifications, a few questions to ask an employer and some small talk to fill in the gaps in conversation.

10. Nurture family relationships with siblings, grandparents and other family members without parents acting as a conduit. Social media make staying connected to family so easy that parents should not need to remind their 19-year-olds.

11. Understand how to grocery shop with an eye towards budget, nutrition and meal planning. This is a work in progress but 19-year-olds living away from home need food shopping and dinner prep skills.

12. Deal with paperwork. One of the banes of adult existence is filling out forms, paying bills and going to the DMV. Nineteen-year-olds are adults.

13. Effectively plan out the remaining semesters of college such that the workload is manageable and all graduation requirements will be met.

14. Be able to speak knowledgeably about some of the major news issue of the day. If you are old enough to vote, it is essential to have an awareness of the issues.

15. Make travel arrangements and know how to change them when necessary (and no, calling Mom is not how to change them).

16. Be able to move into a new apartment with the help of friends or siblings without involving parents.

17. Know how to buy and deliver a gift for a family member or friend.

18. Conduct their own banking including making deposits, withdrawals, and transfers as well as monitoring balances and paying bills on time.

19. Know how to listen to their body’s need for sleep, nutritious foods, exercise, extra care when ill or anything else, and act like a grown up who understands our bodies are strong but not invincible.


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