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Essential Life Skills for Students: School or Home?

The two sources for students to learn life skills: School vs Home

Have you ever thought about the balance between what schools teach and what parents bring to the table when it comes to life skills for students? Let’s look at a thought-provoking scenario from Winchester College, Rishi Sunak's old school in the UK, which made headlines in The Times last December.

Their motto of hundreds of years, by the way, is “Manners Makyth Man”.

Winchester College building
Credit: Winchester College website

The recent spotlight on Winchester College's forward-thinking approach caught my attention. Elizabeth Stone, the school's first female headmaster, highlighted an interesting perspective.


She pointed out that parents don't always cover the basics every child should learn, growing up: how to iron a shirt, writing thank-you notes. and the finesse of a proper handshake. Of course, you could argue that, as a boarding school, students are away from home and not able to learn these life skills' from their parents on a daily basis. Hence the school, as a 'surrogate parent', has somewhat of an obligation to take on that role.

It's a dynamic discussion and it reflects the core reason behind me writing the student guide: From High School to Uni.

Front cover of the student guide From High School to Uni

I believe there's a sweet spot where the wisdom of parents in a caring home life and a structured education system can meet to create a holistic foundation for students to learn practical life skills such as budgeting, learning value for money and project management.

As Winchester College recognizes:

“An essential part of a good education that teaches resilience and resourcefulness for life is the promotion of positive mental health”.


Budgeting is one of the Top Life Skills for Students

In Denmark, financial literacy is a cornerstone of education, where lessons include understanding income, budgeting, credit, borrowing, spending and investing. Students learn how to make informed decisions about managing their money and financial resources.

Across the Channel in the UK, the story is different. Unlike their Danish counterparts, UK students face the challenge of navigating the complexities of personal finance without the structured guidance of a formal curriculum.

As the 2023 National Student Survey reveals the financial landscape, it is clear that the lack of dedicated financial education is leaving UK students to deal with the consequences of increased living costs, financial shortfalls and the subsequent impact on key aspects of their wellbeing.


The three most common areas in which students were affected by financial problems were food (49%), mental health (55%) and social life (62%).

13% of students surveyed have never prepared a budget.

18% of students surveyed said they had used food banks to survive.

64% of students surveyed said they had skipped meals to save money.

21% of students surveyed have received hardship funding from their university.

82% are worried about making ends meet.

64% of respondents wished they had received better financial education at school.

Students studying in pods at university


So while weekly lessons in 'essential life skills' of ironing, shaking hands, and writing polite emails are all helpful for future careers in the office, what other practical subjects could be taught to students? One topic is time management.

Life Skills for Students: Time Management

One advantage of working from home is that, in between meetings or tasks, we can throw a load in the washing machine, or put ingredients in the slow cooker before dropping the kids off at school or running errands. 

I maximise my time while listening in to meetings I don't have to actively participate in by doing a pile of ironing! That's time management!

Young man putting washing from a laundry basket into the machine

Now imagine students in the same game of life, but with a different set of rules. What skills do they need to survive and thrive at university? Most students, when surveyed, will admit to being stressed by deadlines, schedules and fitting all the tasks and demands on them into 24 hours.

So how can we help students with the essential life skills they need for suvival?

Teaching Time Management Tips for Students

As we peel back the layers of life skills, let's think about what students need to survive and thrive at university and beyond.

The time management skills every student would need include:

  • Establishing deadlines.

  • Embracing technology.

  • Creating schedules.

  • Prioritising tasks.

  • Developing routines.

  • Studying at home.

  • Taking regular breaks.


What life skills do you think are essential, and who do you think should be the primary educators in these areas?


Some essential life skills for FUTURE university students:


  1. Financial Savvy: Budgeting, managing debt and understanding student loans.

  2. Cooking Confidence: Basic cooking skills can save both your student budget and your taste buds.

  3. Time Management: Balancing classes, learning to follow a schedule, assignment deadlines, fitting in sports and a social life requires some serious juggling.

  4. Effective Communication: From nailing presentations to sending professional emails, this skill is golden.

  5. Critical Thinking: University is all about questioning, analysing and forming your own opinions. The educational approach in Denmark has children working in groups and they are taught to challenge the established way of doing things. The emphasis is on problem solving, not rote learning.

  6. Stress Management: Because exams and deadlines are a real thing.

  7. Networking: Making connections can open doors you never knew existed.

  8. Self-Care Mastery: Knowing when to take a break and recharge is a life skill.

As we conclude our exploration of essential life skills for students, it's clear that both adults and students face unique challenges in the grand symphony of responsibility.


From mastering time management tricks to navigating financial landscapes, the journey is varied. As adults hone their multitasking skills during a remote workday, students are embarking on a parallel quest, meticulously planning study sessions and learning the skills that are crucial to thriving in university life and beyond.

So long live the ongoing adventure of life skills for students, where every lesson learned, whether in the workplace or the lecture hall, leads to a well-rounded, capable individual.

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