6 Things Every High School Senior Should Have Access To Before Graduation

Times are changing in the economy and within the workforce at a rapid pace. Parents, guardians, and teachers need to pay attention and listen to our young people while providing the right type of guidance to help our newest generation thrive.

Projections show that by 2020, 43% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers according to Nasdaq.

There are various reasons for this shift in the economy. Today, many employers are looking to hire consultants to save money, and workers tend to enjoy the freedom and autonomy that comes with freelancing.

However, one issue we continue to face is the lack of education in critical areas before high school graduation.

During senior year in high school, all students should have access, knowledge, and experience within these top six areas of education mentioned below. For those who do not receive this information at school, it is best for parents or guardians to help guide their children with this information so they are ready for the real and unknown world of living as a young adult, finding a job, entrepreneurship, the economy, and making healthy education and career choices.

Financial Education And Career Options

Before high school graduation, every senior should have access to financial education. Many high schools don’t tend to teach financial literacy. Parents and guardians can begin teaching and displaying good financial choices when kids are young.

Before jumping off to college, seniors should know about the many choices available to them when it comes to life after graduation. For some, high school graduates may be better off going to trade schools, community colleges, and finding workforce placements rather than attending a full four-year university.

Not every student is made out to go to college, and that is okay.

High school seniors should know how student loans work along with student debt they will most likely face in the future. Students should be aware that it is almost impossible to get rid of student debt and understand the long-term financial responsibilities. These financial responsibilities are present immediately even if students do not graduate college.

In an article shared on Forbes, Zack Friedman says, “There are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone.”

Also, one-third of college students drop out entirely. More than half of students enrolled in college take more than six years to graduate, and 57% of students complete their courses after six years. Of that 57%, 33% of those students drop out entirely, according to Credit Donkey.

Finally, students should understand how to create a budget, build credit, buy a home, purchase a car, open a bank account, invest money in stock, and learn how to make smart financial choices. They should also know how credit cards work, understand monthly fees and paying back interest. Most schools do not teach this important information, and students can end up in dire financial stress without this education.

Hands-On Learning And Career Shadowing

Before students start college or jump into a job, they should shadow various careers in which they have an interest within a live setting. Hands-on and real-life experience can provide students with a deep understanding of what a day-to-day job is like in a particular field. Many young people choose majors based on parental and high school pressure and expectations. Unfortunately, many young people can end up quite unhappy with their choices.

Also, many students tend to pivot their majors when they learn more about their chosen field. This change can typically cause a significant loss in money due to dropping and changing courses they do not need for graduation. When students have early access to understanding their potential work interests, which can include the culture, climate, and expectations of a role, they have a much better chance of choosing the right career path.

Quite often, we see young students who graduate with an incredible amount of debt, and a degree that ends up useless  because they don’t want to pursue their original career goals.

When students have access to hands-on learning in different career fields, they can have a significant future advantage before making college or trade school decisions.

Meeting With Business Leaders And Entrepreneurs

High school seniors should also have access to learn from successful entrepreneurs and business leaders in their community. They should have the chance to see what it’s like to work in the entrepreneurial world, so they can understand the many challenges and wins that can come with building a business. Students can ask successful entrepreneurs questions and can learn critical information shadowing business owners.

Given that 50% of the expected economy will be in freelancing rolls by 2021, it is in every student’s best interest to understand how to find opportunities, solve problems, learn how to pitch a service or product, and find investors. Meeting with business leaders and entrepreneurs are excellent ways for students to build new relationships and potentially find life-long mentors.

Understanding that opportunities are everywhere, we can provide young people with the ability to build businesses that can change lives. The opportunities to create an online business are endless, and many young entrepreneurs are already starting their own companies.


Before students graduate high school, they should know how to network properly-both online and off-line. One of the most critical things high school students need to know is how to transform their online digital presence from a personal to a professional mode. High school students should know how to use the Internet to network in the business world while building out their personal brand so they can find opportunities and learn how to stand out from the crowd.

Most students know how to use social media for communication, but that doesn’t mean they know how to present themselves or use platforms for business means.

The line between too personal and professional is a critical one, and students need to understand that their digital footprint does not go away.

LinkedIn Profile

High school students should be running from Snapchat and Instagram and walking over to LinkedIn to create their new business profile while they are still in high school. Having a LinkedIn profile early on in their careers can help them get ahead that much faster. They can build out business contacts, learn how to network, find mentors, and pivot their communication style from a personal communication style toward a professional manner. Students can also find different opportunities to grow their brands through programs such as LinkedIn for Students.

Supportive Community

There are various ways students can find support and like-minded individuals while they are in high school and beyond. Having a personal mentor can change the lives of both mentors and mentees in positive ways. And, students can typically find communities of support both in brick and mortar locations as well as online in different groups and forums.

For example, there is a growing community initiative with a scaled focus group on Facebook titled “Mentors & Mentees.” This organization is for students and professionals who want to take charge of their careers. Tim Salau, Chief Community Lead at “Mentors & Mentees” has accomplished incredible growth within the community he built. Salau has been recognized by Forbes and Wall Street Journal. He has worked with Microsoft, Facebook, and Google all before the age of 24. He is a current product marketing manager with WeWork leading the Future of Work.

Today, the community is 6,500 members strong and consists of a global audience of members from all over the world from nations such as Nigeria, The UK, Canada, and Kenya. “Mentors & Mentees” offers a mentorship program that matches young professionals and mentors who can provide early-career guidance with industry leaders. These leaders can help students develop the soft skills and leadership traits they need to help them land and thrive within the right roles.

They also have active chapters in four hubs including Houston, Seattle, Austin, and San Francisco. In each chapter, community leads create small meet-ups for local members. These initiatives can consist of career development workshops or inviting local guest speakers to help members grow in their careers.

The community is a destination for high school seniors who are seeking a supportive career mentorship community while they embark on college and define their career goals.


Robyn D. Shulman
Robyn D. Shulman
Robyn D. Shulman, M.Ed., is a certified K-9, ESL, and Writing Teacher. In 2018, LinkedIn named her the #1 Top Voice in Education. She is a contributing writer for Forbes, where she covers education and entrepreneurship. She is also the Executive Editor at Brain-centric Design. She writes about K-12, college changes, innovation, entrepreneurship, and the innovation we need to have in education. She also shares how learning works on a fundamental level for both children and adults, based on 40 years of neuroscience. Her work highlights the positive changes we can bring in K-12, for college-age students, and within corporate education. Robyn is also the founder of EdNews Daily, an education media outlet and resource that provides education support and information for parents, students, teachers, and school administrators. Robyn has also been part of LinkedIn's advisors since 2013 and was named as "Someone to Follow" in 2016 with the official influencers who use the platform. Before her time writing, she started her career in a 4th-grade classroom, and eventually transitioned into higher education. Entrepreneur, Forbes, Cision's Influencer Blog, The Huffington Post, LinkedIn's Official Blog, The International Educator, Edudemic, Edutopia, We Are Teachers, Reimagine Education, Fox News Chicago, Thrive Global, The Next Web, and more publications have featured her work. Today, she continues to work with students, teachers, and innovators in education, hoping to bring positive change to the entire education system.

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  1. Robyn, these are all excellent suggestions that school districts across the country should adopt. The better we equip our students before they set out into the world missing vital skills and knowledge the greater the chance they have of succeeding opening the door for successes that bloom from them. As a teacher, you know better than anyone what our students are lacking and what needs to be provided to them in terms of resources. Thank you for taking on his great challenge. You are a true role model people should look up to.

    • You are welcome, Robyn. Teachers deserve more credit and respect than they are given. Often they are grossly underpaid while being burdened with having to be a parent to someone else’s child. Other times a teacher has to be a social worker, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. Nobody should have to juggle so many hats which takes away from the function of teaching. Through in having to pay for supplies or materials it is just not right.

    • I agree. I run a teacher support group too. They are leaving the field in countless numbers. It’s very sad–and there are so many reasons for it.

    • We need teachers! There are no two ways about it. Teaching requires an investment of time. If a teacher has to take on more roles than let’ say a policeman or a fireman would have to there is something wrong.

  2. Robyn – A very thought-provoking article. While reading it, I couldn’t help but think how much the standard H.S. content curriculum needs to change to open up student interest in a variety of fields.

    When I graduated from HS., I thought I would major in math because I had received “As” in all my math courses. I had no idea what I would do with math, however. When I suffered badly in my first college math course, I switched to history because I liked my survey instructor’s classroom. At the time, I had no idea what I would do with history. Eventually I went on to teach H.S. history and later served as an executive for an educational publishing company.

    I don’t regret my choices, but I wish I (1) had been more informed and (2) been more exposed to a variety of disciplines especially engineering while in H.S. I can’t help but think that the college dropout rate you noted has something to do with how we’re not educating students in H.S. I also think we should be changing how we ask kids to look at their future. Instead of asking “What do you want to do?” we should increasingly be asking them “What are the kinds of problems that interest you?” Instead of the standard curriculum of content credits, we should be offering kids mini-courses in a variety of subjects – mini courses that expose them to fields of study and that help them build key skills.

    • Thank you so much for reading, and for your input Jeff. I also received your note and will get back to you as soon as I can! If you have time, check out my alma mater, Maine East–Follow Ken Wallace on LinkedIn and Twitter, he’s a true revolutionary.

    • Robyn – Not Maine East HS in Park Ridge?! I graduate from Maine South. I will look to connect with Dr. Wallace, thanks. I look forward to talking with you.

    • Yes! I went to Maine East in Park Ridge–such a small world. Definitely connect with him–you’ll love what he’s doing. He said it’s the heaviest lift he’s ever made in education.

      Here’s more information about the programs below (and they’re growing their own new education staff through the students–the ones who want to become teachers). It’s amazing.

    • Robyn — I’ve made contact with Ken Wallace, and he’s going to be a guest on our show on 4/3. THANK YOU for pointing me to him. Now…what I’d really like to do is get you to be a guest – not at the same time – but on the same day. Your episodes would air a week a part, but that would allow me to establish a theme for a few shows. Happy to have a preliminary conversation.

    • Hi Jeff! That’s great news! I’m so happy to hear about it. I just started a new job this week, so I’m fairly exhausted at the moment. I promise to get back to you soon–need to check my calendar! I’m really excited you got in touch with Ken, too. I’ll be back!

    • Got it. Excited about making your acquaintance and the possibility of exploring our shared terrain of education.

  3. Interesting timing. I’ve been working on sponsoring some networking groups in our local high schools because I don’t think anyone is telling this students how important that is. We place so much emphasis on grades when it’s actually much more relationships that are going to get you where you want to be.