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12 Skills Every 12th Grader Needs Before They Move Away From Home

Kara Powell
September 24th, 2019

This post is part of a feature series highlighting insights, encouragement, and inspiration from many of our speakers at this year’s National Youth Workers Convention in Tampa, FL. To join us, these speakers, and thousands of other youth workers, register today!


Tacos. Pasta with sausage. Tuna casserole.

These are the simple dinners Nathan, our oldest of three, and I cooked together during his senior year to help him get ready for college.

During high school, Nathan’s strengths were more in the “eating large quantities” category than in actual meal preparation. Looking ahead to life after high school, my husband Dave and I knew that needed to change.

In his study of college freshmen, sociologist Tim Clydesdale found that students often become stunned by all they have to tackle in their “daily life management.” Away from parents and the stability of home, young people can be somewhat shell-shocked by the lack of boundaries and abundance of new choices. The better we prepare 12th graders for the road that lies ahead, the less likely they are to choose a dangerous detour. 

Whether it’s a few weeks or a few years before teenagers leave home, we as youth leaders have the opportunity to encourage families to make sure that each 12th grader knows how to do these 12 essential skills:

  • Do laundry (including their bedsheets!)
  • Wash the dishes and do basic housecleaning
  • Use an ATM machine, conduct banking online, and exchange money on Venmo or PayPal
  • Manage a budget
  • Perform basic first aid
  • Hang a picture (a skill that many college freshmen lack but almost all need)
  • Make healthy eating choices at a school cafeteria
  • Grocery shop with a budget
  • Cook a few simple meals
  • Change a tire and understand routine car maintenance (especially if they own a car)
  • Use Uber, Lyft, or other means of public transportation
  • Identify one adult they can call or text in a crisis

Don’t skimp on the last one. Moving into college, the military, or the workforce means new choices and new temptations. While his father and I believe in Nathan and his character, we take comfort in knowing that he has identified a few adults ahead of time who he can call when he needs reminders of God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. 

As we told him the night before we dropped him off at his freshman dorm, we want him to run toward—not away from—God and the church in those seasons when he needs both the most. 


Our research at the Fuller Youth Institute has shown that churches can’t grow young unless they encourage families that are growing with. Whether you’re a parent or you minister to parents, you can help other families keep their roots even as kids spread their wings. Forward this list to parents of high school seniors, consider hosting a parent information evening, or connect students with caring church members who can lend a listening ear while teaching students a helpful life skill. Together, you can make your church the best place for young people to grow.

Kara Powell

Kara Powell, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women to Watch,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences.  Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books including Growing Young, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.

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