Ways school did not prepare me for real life.

I PASSED MY THESIS DEFENSE EVERYONE. Phew! I knew going into the defense that students aren’t invited to defend unless their research is sound and their thesis is of high quality, but that doesn’t make the final oral examination any less stressful. I literally sweated through my dress for four straight hours on Friday. I started with the public presentation which went VERY well. It actually went better than the dozen times I practiced it which is weird but amazing. I then proceeded to be interviewed by a panel of academics for three hours. I felt good about my answers and when I left the room for their deliberation I knew I had given it my 110% and it was out of my hands by that point. I thankfully passed and officially will be graduating this fall with my MSc in Human Nutrition and Metabolism.


When my supervisor introduced me to the panel she said, “Kris walked into her graduate degree with two major goals; to finish it in two years and to have a career path in place when she left the university. As of this week, she has accomplished both.” *pats self on shoulder* As I’ve noticed however, the education system doesn’t exactly prepare you for real life. Please know that this is for fun and I absolutely love school, but there are some things you don’t learn in biology class.


  • School didn’t teach me the difference between “business” and “business casual.” I’m really just winging it when I dress for conferences and when I started my job this week… “sure, this looks somewhat professional and what I imagine adults should look like.”
  • Voting and the election process. This is majorly skimmed over in grade 11 social studies in my personal experience. I understand that those who have an interest in politics are very aware of how voting and the Canadian electoral system works but I find myself trying to stumble around political party websites every time an election rolls around. “Who’s the hot one? Yeah, I’m voting for him.”
  • Executive summary? Briefing note? Oh you only know how to write essays like you did in grade 9? Sounds about right. I had to do an assignment of a fake briefing note to the Minister of Health as part of my interview process for my current job and I had to find a briefing note template online to even know what it was suppose to look like. Maybe our English classes could be a little less Shakespeare and a little more legitimate relevant information.
  • Investments. I know only what my mom and dad have graciously taught me. I have some of my finances invested (low risk) but I would never have known to even consider this as a financial option without the knowledge and assistance of my parents. Career and Personal Planning in grade 10, thanks for nothing.
  • Navigating the healthcare system. What is exactly “free Canadian healthcare”? What are options for extended healthcare? What is covered and what isn’t? Also… for actual illness and emergencies… what constitutes a trip to the ER? What is the nurse hotline for questions? Should I seek out a medicentre or my family physician for a timely illness? A lot of this is information that is a “cross that bridge when you come to it” kind of situation but I think the education system could provide some form of healthcare education. Maybe ERs wouldn’t be so jammed in urban centres this way?
  • International travel planning (and doing it safely). Not everyone loves to travel, I get that, but not a lot of people leave high school prepared to travel safely and maybe even economically. My aunt works in travel insurance and the stories she has from claims are mindblowing and a lot of it has to do with lack of education. I myself have always relied on my parents who have extensive travel insurance for our family but I have no idea what type of travel insurance I need for domestic and international travel, as well as the documents and photocopies and toll free numbers I need for traveling. It seems like something students should know as this is a largely traveling population especially in college or university! I rely exclusively on Liam Neeson in the Taken movie series for knowledge of international travel safety.
  • Gardening and how to grow food. I’m not kidding. I think this is a topic that is SO SO SO important to the livelihood of current and future generations but is completely ignored by the current education system. Unless you grow up with that lifestyle or take agriculture studies in university, there is very little knowledge in the education system of this valuable life skill. I did my thesis research with a school that had indoor classroom gardens and I was actually so jealous! Where was this in my school?!
  • Navigating courts and the justice system. To me, the court and justice system is like one big prison… like if I don’t need to go into it for any reason, I am going to stay as far away as I can. STORY TIME: I accidentally forgot my uPass (university transit pass) one evening on the city train and of course it was the only night I saw a bylaw officer checking passes. I got a $250 ticket and was absolutely embarrassed and devastated. I was going to attempt to dispute it and needed information from the court system to make sure I knew if it was listed as a traffic ticket on my drivers license or anything and it was an absolutely shitshow trying to talk to anyone about this ticket. I spent a few hours on the phone between provincial courts, municipal traffic laws, city bylaw offices, the drivers license and traffic courts, and NO ONE had any information for me. It turns out the ticket was never filed by the officer so payment wasn’t necessary but I was so confused as to how to navigate this system and if it were anything more serious, how I would even be able to!
  • Bills. Just, bills in general. Automated payments, credit card payments for bills, interac payees, is one better than the other? How do I set these things up? Internet research helps obviously, but like, school, where you at with this information?

All in all, I guess that’s life… figuring it out one day at a time, or one tax season at a time. I have spent the last 20 years of my life in school (I even did two years of preschool because I was a young nerd at the age of three) and it sometimes scares me and makes me laugh at how much valuable life information is left out of the education system. Even in university and grad school I thought, “at some point I should gain valuable knowledge” but really… it’s all experience. Hope you got a laugh out of it. 😉 Have a lovely day!


  1. HA! This is a great post. And you’re so right about everything you mention. At least you are aware that these are things you should even be learning about/questioning! I’d say that’s the first step 😉 From my knowledge – paying bills with credit cards only gets you the benefits of said credit cards (like the points) if you do automated payments on them. BUT, then you must pay it off right away, because you can still earn interest on those payments. Some companies will let you pay bills automatically too (like energy direct for example, the bill automatically comes out of our checking account every month). The rest of the bills we pay online. And you can add accounts to your online banking so that you can pay online (either yourself or have a bank teller do it!). But keep in mind…you usually need three days for processing! Haha…I’m going off on a tangent here, aren’t I? 😉

    And yes – good point about the travel insurance! So many people don’t know or don’t care. And so many people don’t realize that their credit cards they book travel through often have really good travel insurance built in!

    And lastly….if it makes you feel any better…my husband got a ticket at the train one day when he too forgot his pass at home. So embarrassing and he DID have to pay it 🙁

  2. Congrats on your thesis. It’s hard to navigate real life. Even at almost 30 years old I still don’t understand a lot of things. Live and learn! The good thing is, there are professionals to help you with most everything. Like finance (since I work in a financial institute), you can pop into your bank to chat with an advisor about all of that stuff, the best ways to pay your bills, save money, start a retirement fund, investments, etc.

  3. Hahaha I try not to think about everything school didn’t teach me! Thank goodness for parents and work experience.

    Congrats on your defense! Mine was one of the most stressful experiences ever so you must be so relieved and happy now!

  4. I really do think they need to offer a “Life” course in Grade 12 that goes over everything you listed, ESPECIALLY how to budget! I am 31 and JUST figured it out! But I read lots of Shakespeare so I’m good. Ha ha ha!

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