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

Former Stanford dean and author, 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.

19 things every 19-year-old should master.
Every 19-year-old should know how to do these things.


After a single year in college, or in the workplace, a large amount of adulting has taken place. With 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. Cover Letter — 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. LinkedIn — Complete a LinkedIn profile and keep it updated. Parental help should consist of proofreading letters, resumes, and applications, not writing them.
  3. Living Arrangements — 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. Communicate — Call home, without being reminded. Remember family members’ birthdays and other family occasions, without being reminded. Answer texts (within 2 hours) and emails (within 12 hours)…without being reminded.
  5. Health Insurance — Know how to fill a prescription and use a health insurance card.
  6. Medical Help — Be able to locate a health professional, emergency room, or walk-in clinic without needing step-by-step parental guidance.
  7. Health History — 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. They should know what medications they are allergic to and the basic facts about their medical history.
  8. Prepare Job Interview — Prepare for a job interview by researching the company on both its website and social media.
  9. Conduct Job Interview — 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.  Family Relationships — Nurture family relationships with siblings, grandparents, and other family members without parents acting as a conduit. Social media makes staying connected to family so easy that parents should not need to remind their 19-year-olds.
  11. Grocery Shop — Understand how to grocery shop with an eye towards budget, nutrition, and meal planning. This may still be a work in progress but 19-year-olds living away from home need at least food rudimentary shopping and dinner prep skills.
  12. Paperwork — 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 and they can handle paperwork if we let them.
  13. Manage Workload Effectively plan out the remaining semesters of college such that the workload is manageable and graduation requirements are met.
  14. Follow Current Issues — Be able to speak knowledgeably about some of the major news issues of the day. If you are old enough to vote, it is essential to have an awareness of the issues.
  15. Travel — Make travel arrangements and know how to change them when necessary (and no, calling mom is not how to change them).
  16. Move — Be able to move into a new apartment with the help of friends or siblings without involving parents.
  17. Gifts — Know how to buy and deliver a gift for a family member or friend.
  18. Banking — Conduct their own banking including making deposits, withdrawals, and transfers as well as monitoring balances and paying bills on time.
  19. Take Care of Yourself — Know how to listen to their body’s need for sleep, nutritious foods, exercise, extra care when ill, and act like a grown-up who understands our bodies are strong but not invincible.


You Might Also Want to Read:

50 Things 18-Year-Olds Can Do (Who Knew?)

Here are the Legal Documents You Need When Your Child Turns 18



About Lisa Endlich Heffernan

Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author.
She started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and is co-author of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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