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Financial Literacy For High School Students

checkbook and calculatorIn this article from The New Haven Register, “Add financial literacy to high school coursework,”  author Eric Tashlein argues that CT high schools  should require students to take a course on financial literacy. He states, “Most Connecticut school districts offer personal finance as an elective course, using a model curriculum provided by the state, but few have made it a requirement to graduate, complete with testing.”

I could not agree more!  Making this a required course will solve two important problems.

The first is obvious– students who would not have considered taking the course will now become familiar with financial information they will soon need to understand.  For students who plan to attend college, understanding interest rates and paying back college loans is crucial. For students who plan to go straight into the work force, this may inspire them to sign up for a 401K as soon as they are able to.

The second problem that I think gets solved may be less obvious. As a College Admissions Consultant, I review the high school student’s curriculum and we discuss the pros and cons of certain course choices going forward. This is done within the context of the student’s academic strengths, where they might want to attend college and the major they may have in mind. As I tell my students- you need to balance a rigorous curriculum while maintaining good grades and maintaining your sanity. 

Students who aspire to apply to the most selective colleges may think that if they choose to take a class that is not an AP or Honors course, or one they think the colleges will consider “fluff,” it will hurt them in admissions.  Therefore, some students may avoid taking a class they would have found interesting over concern for how the colleges will interpret that choice. By making this a graduation requirement, students can let go of the worry that they will be hurt in the selection process to very competitive colleges.

As I have noted in my book, May 2: Practical Advice For College Students And Their Parents, many students have shared with me that managing money was difficult for them. Some ended up going negative in their checking accounts, incurring extra fees and others opened credit cards without understanding how easy it is to get into debt.

It would be so much better if they learned these important life lessons in high school. 


Janet Rosier