5 Essential life skills every adult should know

Colleen Kelly

College is a time of transitioning. We’re expected to know how to be adults by the time we’re in our 20s, but unfortunately, a majority of students don’t know essential life skills necessary to living on their own. We know that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but high school didn’t prep us at all for being a self-sufficient adult. Unless you have an amazing RA, hands-on parents or a very patient roommate, it’s unlikely you’re going to get much guidance in college, either. Here are a few essential skills not related to school that everyone should know by the end of college.

How to jumpstart a car

One of the most frustrating hurdles of car ownership is knowing what to do when your car won’t start. Oftentimes, you’re going to need to call for roadside assistance and get a part replaced, but one service that you can easily perform yourself is jumpstarting your battery. You will first need to be sure that your car battery is the problem, though. Try starting your car as normal. Does your engine turn over slowly? Are the headlights and dashboard lights dim? Does the radio still work? If you answered yes to any of the following, it is likely that your battery is the problem. You will need two things to fix this: another working car and jumper cables. Jumper cables are easily stored in the trunk of your car, and available at most grocery or hardware stores for under 20 dollars.

  1. First, turn both cars completely off and pop your hoods. Both cars should be parked with their engines close, but not touching.
  2. Identify your car battery by looking for a black plastic box with two knobs called terminals. They are typically colored red and black, red being the positive terminal, black the negative terminal.
  3. Clamp one end of the colored cable to each car’s positive terminal, then clamp one end of the black cable to each car’s negative terminal. Make sure that none of the cables’ slack is resting on the engines.
  4. Turn on the working car first and let it idle for 30 seconds before starting the non-working car. Let idle for 30-60 seconds. If the non-working car will not start after a few tries, carefully disconnect the cables in the reverse order from which they were attached (meaning that negative should be disconnected before the positive) and call for roadside assistance.
  5. If the jumpstart does work, carefully disconnect the negative cables from each car before the positive cables. You will need to keep the car running for at least thirty minutes so as to maintain the charge to the battery. Consider still having the battery checked in case it is dying and needs to be replaced.

How to file your taxes

Taxes can be a terrifying endevor if you have never had to file them for yourself. As you work, you should be keeping your W-2 forms – or forms that keep track of your earnings and how much was sent to state and federal establishments. Filing taxes is an important part of keeping yourself current with the state, and, not to forget, getting back your tax refund.

  1. Get your W-2(s) handy. You should have one per year per job. If you are not married, have no dependants (children) you should be filling out the most basic tax form.
  2. You may need information on student loan payments if you have started to pay them off, college expenses or recorded donations. You will also need to know basic information about your employer(s).
  3. Visit TurboTax.com – the service is free if you are only filing for personal taxes (you should be if this is your first time) and create an account. It will save your progress and save each year to make filing easier.
  4. TurboTax should walk you through step-by-step to plug in information.
  5. Make sure to save your progess!
  6. Keep each years paperwork in a safe place. Each time you file taxes you will need to know last years information.

How to treat fabric stains

By now, most of us already know how to vaccuum, dust and do the dishes, but keeping our clothes and furniture clean and stain-free can be a real challenge if you don’t already know the tricks. Simply sticking things in the washing machine isn’t always going to cut it. The beauty of all of these fixes is that they all utilize items you should already have in your household.

Fresh blood

  1. Soak affected area in cold water.
  2. Dab at it with a hydrogen peroxide soaked cotton ball until clean.

Dried blood

  1. Soak stained fabric in cold water.
  2. Wring it out and seal it within a ziplock bag with two cups of lemon juice and half a cup of salt.
  3. Massage the affected area through the plastic of the bag, being sure to rub in the lemon and salt solution. Let sit for ten minutes.
  4. Remove fabric from bag and wring out excess moisture. Let fabric sit in direct sunlight until completely dry.

Ink, oil, grease or makeup stains

  1. Spray generously with WD-40 and blot clean.


  1. Dab stained area with warm water without rubbing it in.
  2. Coat entire stain in shaving cream. Let sit for 60 seconds and rinse with warm water until the water runs clear.


  1. Wet a paper towel with color safe bleach or hydrogen peroxide. If the stain is already dry, apply a few drops of dish soap to the paper towel as well.
  2. Dab at the stain until the fabric is clean. Let the fabric completely air dry before washing it.

How to heal a sprain

This one seems like it should be common sense, but you would be amazed how many people don’t know how to take care of basic injuries that go beyond aspirin or band-aids.

  1. First, be sure that a sprain is not a fracture. If the injured appendage is bleeding, difficult to move, moves in an unnatural way or is extremely painful to touch/when supporting weight, seek medical attention. Otherwise, this is likely a sprain and can be treated at home with proper care and monitoring by applying the R.I.C.E. Method.
  2. Rest: Use the injured appendage as little as possible. This can only worsen the injury.
  3. Ice: Apply ice or a cold compact to the injured area for 10-30 minutes. Do this three or four times throughout the day. Do not apply heat to the sprain for the first two days so as not to worsen swelling.
  4. Compress: Wrap injured appendage as tightly as is comfortable. Wrapping too tightly can worsen swelling.
  5. Elevate: Keep injured appendage comfortably elevated above your heart. This decreases blood flow, minimizing pain, swelling and inflammation.
  6. If a sprain does not improve within a week, seek medical attention.

How to cook spaghetti

Spaghetti is a great basic meal for a first-time chef, especially if you are trying to feed a few people. It’s a cheap, filling option that’s perfect for one (and leftovers) or group gatherings, and only takes around 20 minutes to make.

  1. Shop: Make sure to pick up all of the ingredients you will need. This includes: pasta noodles, pasta sauce, any optional vegetables or meat you want to add.
  2. Make sure you have a large enough pot, a pan, something to stir with and a strainer.
  3. Boil water and add the pasta. It should cook for about 20 minutes until it is in between soft and hard.
  4. (Optional) If you have meat, start cooking it with the vegetables for 15 minutes and then drain the grease off.
  5. Start to heat the sauce a few minutes before the pasta is done. The sauce should start to boil and then set on a low heat while you finish with the noodles.
  6. Strain the noodles and then run them under cold water to keep them from continuing to cook while setting out.
  7. Mix together sauce and pasta (possibly meat and vegetables) and enjoy!