15 Things You Should Know Before You Turn Twenty

1) Your social security number.

You would be surprised how many college freshmen don’t know theirs. When you’re in high school, there’s no shame in having to ask your parents for your information. However, once you become an adult, it becomes an expectation that you have these numbers memorized. You will be asked for it when you apply for credit, FAFSA, jobs, and more.

2) How to save money and build credit.

I am currently making minimum wage at my home job ($8.15 in Ohio) and $12 an hour at my job in Cleveland. I also have bills (Spotify, medical, tolls, music lessons, gas, and more) despite living with my parents. However, I manage to keep at least a few hundred dollars in savings throughout the year, and a couple thousand during the summertime. Whereas I know people who make up to twice as much money as I do (and also live with their parents, paying as few bills as I do, if any) who constantly complain about not having money. Where is their cash going?

It’s going to buying new cars straight off the lot, new shoes, acrylic nails, makeup from Sephora, lingerie from Victoria’s Secret, weed, and the latest iPhone upgrade when their current phone is only a year old.

What they don’t understand is that a large part of adulthood is making sacrifices. While that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy things, you need to understand when something is hurting your finances and compromise. If you like getting acrylics, then restrict yourself to getting them to celebrate special occasions. Buy your makeup from Ulta. Wait until your phone starts giving you problems before you buy a new one.

Some of the ways I love to save: Making a shopping list one week in advance and then allowing myself to purchase a luxury item a week or more later, no-spend months, keeping a piggy bank of all extra cash at the end of the month, hiding birthday money between books on my bookshelf.

3) How to write a professional e-mail.

The more professional your e-mails look, the more likely you will be told “yes.” Really. This is another thing that you’d be surprised that not many people know how to do.

4) How to speak/understand a foreign language.

Not everyone has access to good foreign language classes in their school, but your local library may offer classes. I took French classes at my library in third grade, and although I only stuck with it for about a month, I can still remember pretty much everything I learned AND it helped me learn other Latin-based languages at a faster rate. I am almost fluent reading Portuguese, and I only started studying it seriously about a month ago.

5) How to write a resume and cover letter.

Luckily, my high school drilled this into our heads during eleventh grade. My school wasn’t much help in writing a performing arts resume, but I still am kinda great at it.

6) How to use social media to your professional advantage.

I know it’s tempting, but do not make every other tweet about how much you need a blunt. It’s a little safer if you don’t use your real name, but I still wouldn’t advise it. In fact, I wouldn’t even post about alcohol unless I were of age– on my Instagram, I have one picture of red wine, and I was in Ontario, where I am of legal drinking age.

But even more than what not to do, make sure you’re friending your classmates and professors. You may find information on job prospects, auditions, scholarships, summer programs, and other projects through them.

7) When to leave a job.

I have friends who have been at their first job for seven or more years, and I also have friends who can only keep a job for seven months. I personally have been at my first job for three years, and I would like to leave it someday (my position is one that people are expected to quit after a few years to move up in the system or move on). However, I know that most employers are not as willing to keep employees who are gone for extended periods of time, so I am planning on keeping this job until I graduate and have found a full-time (or at least higher paying) position.

However, I have friends who will leave a job almost on a whim because they’re not happy. And then bills start piling up because they’re unemployed. Always, always wait until you have a better paying job before you put in your notice for your current one. Always.

8) Your alcoholic limit.

You shouldn’t be drinking at all before you’re twenty-one (in the U.S.), but… let’s be real. You probably have. So. You need to know how to pace yourself. And whether you’re trying to get drunk or not, always make sure to drink a cup of water after every alcoholic beverage you have.

9) How to respectfully disagree with colleagues and superiors.

I have disagreed with my colleagues on several things, and I make sure to voice my opinion because I am not paid enough to blindly follow rules that I think are pointless. So long as you are kind with your words and have good timing, you should voice your concerns. You never know if you’re right.

10) How to drive or catch the bus/subway.

If you live in the suburbs or a rural area, you need to save money for a car and get a license. If you cannot afford to drive, make sure you know how to ride public transit.

11) How to cook.

There are 20-year-old Big Macs with no mold on them. I think you understand what I’m trying to say here.

12) How to swim.

Swimming is an important life skill, and one that I truly believe one should learn how to do before they turn five. I, unfortunately, am a very weak swimmer and will likely be one for the rest of my life; therefore, make sure you know how. And make sure your future children know how from an early age.

13) How to make important phone calls.

I like to pretend that I’m my mother whenever I call corporations or other important people, and it almost always makes me sound more confident and Certified Adult-like.

14) How to make a five-year plan.

Wanna quit your job? Wanna go to college? Wanna go to Brazil? Make a plan and learn how to make it happen.

15) How to maximize productivity to reach your goals.

Learn when the best time is for you to wake up, when to take naps, which times of day you’re at your peak productivity, how to break a technological addiction, and how to stick to a routine. Future You will thank you.

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Did you like this post? Then please like, follow, and pin this on Pinterest. You can also follow me on Instagram (@hopeezell) and Twitter (@TheAfroAlto).

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