What I Wish I Had Learned In School

In FIVE days, I’ll be graduating from UC Berkeley. I’ll have completed 16 consecutive years of grade school. Knowing what I know now, here is a breakdown of what I wished I had learned during that time.

On average, students in California spend 6.24 hours in school and roughly 181 school days per year — that’s 1,086 hours of schooling per year. Multiply that by the 16 years of schooling, give or take a couple hours here and there. I’ve spent 17, 376 hours of my life in school. That’s not including all the hours of studying school requires — which would be about 8, 688 hours with an average of 2 hours per school day. Factor all that in, I’ve spent 26,064 hours on school.

Many aspects on the list below are touched upon, some covered in more depth than others in our schooling, but I think the key factor is where the emphasis is placed, and what life lessons are taught by each subject.

Mental Health

Learning about mental health and breaking down the stigma surrounding it at a young age are crucial. A study done by Huffington Post says, “at secondary school age it is estimated that 50% of lifetime mental illness first presents itself by the age of 14.” Being aware that feeling sad, low, or anxious is nothing to feel ashamed of and could help young people to open up. Discussion prevents feelings from developing or resulting into something more serious in later years.

61,500,000: The approximate number of Americans who experience a mental health disorder in a given year . That’s one in four adults

Meds are being under and overprescribed, denial is a product of shame, and misdiagnosis forces many to go through life without quality awareness of their mental state. Describing teens as moody and angst is an old cliche. That stage of life is loaded with drama and intense feelings. Teen minds have always craved stimulation, and their emotional reactions are by nature urgent and sometimes debilitating. The biggest variable, then, is the climate in which teens navigate this stage of development. School is the place to start the conversation.

  • rates of depression among girls ages 12–17 in 2015 were more than double that of boys. (In the U.S., 19.5% of girls experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, while only 5.8% of boys did.
  • 40,000,000 adults suffer from anxiety disorders in the U.S.
  • 90% of people who die by suicide also had a mental health disorder.
  • 70–90%: The percentage of individuals with mental illness who saw improvement in their symptoms and quality of life after participating in some form of treatment.

The pressure of grades, a prestigious university, a high paying job, etc. matters zero when your mind is crumbling. We need to start placing more emphasis on educating our children on mental health so that our future generations can live happier and lead more fulfilling lives that will result in them living to their full potentials.

Managing Money

The number of Math, Finance, Econ, and Accounting classes I have taken is a joke compared to how much I’ll use in my line of work and my life. I just signed a full-time offer for after graduation and had to Google almost half of what I was reading in the financial section.


“school teaches you numbers, but they fail to emphasize the importance of saving, how to keep your budget, how to manage your own money, and how our tax system works.”

We underestimate the value of a dollar, and we do so because we were never taught with importance and emphasis where our dollar can take us.

These are the financial topics that should have been covered in school:

  • negotiating contracts
  • reading financial statements
  • creating a budget geared towards long-term saving
  • investing and stocks
  • credit cards/scores

Love & Heartbreak

The best and worst feelings in the world — love, and heartbreak. By including this section, I don’t want to insinuate that everyone should go out and seek relationships — that life is somehow devoid without it. But the experience in the meaning of love and heartbreak is to experience perseverance and resilience. The lessons I have learned from them have had more to do with growth and emotional intelligence than just boys. (interesting TED Talk on emotional intelligence — Daniel Goleman)

“Our culture is already so love-obsessed that the last thing I would want to suggest is that those who are not coupled up are missing out on something essential.” Many people lose out on love simply because they don’t realize that, indeed, there is much to learn about falling into, maintaining, and flourishing in relationships.

Heartbreak teaches you to find lessons in hardship and grow in tough times. When something in our lives drastically changes, it can feel very uncomfortable. But, when we’re able to understand and accept that change is inevitable, we become better at adapting accordingly. While there are relationships that can last a lifetime, they are rare. Nothing is permanent, and while that can sometimes be dismal and scary, it also means that we never run out of opportunities to have new beginnings. (Elite Daily)

Love teaches you respect, trust, honesty, and forgiveness.

Heartbreak teaches you humility, self-adequacy, growth, and perseverance.

Coping with Failure

In my experience failing has been one of my fears. If we dive deeper into why failure is such a shitty feeling, it stems from our fear of what people will think of our failure. We value what people think; we base our failures on what others define as “success.”

Eventually, you will fail in front of somebody. It might hurt a little. It might hurt a lot. When the raw emotions fade, though, you’ll look around and realize something: You are still alive.

People graduate from universities thinking they can conquer the world. They have their first set of failures, and they hit a wall. When people realize that failure is part of success, they have breakthroughs.



Four years ago, I was rejected from UC Berkeley. I was defeated and demoralized at the thought of going to a Community College, but I did it. I’m better because of it, and next week I’ll graduate from UC Berkeley.

Last October I got rejected from an amazing role at a top company. I was devastated. I felt dumb, I felt inadequate, and I felt embarrassed. But failure and rejection teach you to embrace those feelings and get your shit together.

Action conquers fear. This is what failure has taught me: it has taught me nobody is going to hand me things in life; if you want something, get it. If you don’t like something, change it. It’s all about mindset, which is easier said than done, but once you change your perception — failure is a success if you learn from it.

Survival Skills

I can write a 25 paged essay with thorough analysis, endnotes, any style citations, a thesis that’ll blow your mind, and a tedious alphabetically organized bibliography. I can do a competitive analysis on any growth market for your products, and I can recite way too many math formulae’s that I don’t use. You know what I can’t do? Change a tire, make a fire or a smoke signal, know what to do when a bear is in front of me, how to effectively defend myself from an attacker, and probably a lot more.

At any moment you never know when you or someone around you will suddenly be in trouble and to be self-sufficient in a life and death situation is a platform of knowledge, unfortunately, most people lack.

Read this for some cool videos and a better explanation of things to know: Six survival skills you should learn now. Because I sure as hell have no other advice here other than to learn these skills!

How to Apply to Jobs

I learned how to apply for jobs a year ago. I’m 22 years old…lol. Granted I learned how to do this because I took a class at Haas School of Business on Social Media and Branding. So I guess I did learn this in school but had I known earlier about coffee chats, how to write emails, networking, social media branding, and making my resume look unique, I would probably be way ahead of the game.

The before, during, and after of the job application process should be incorporated more into our school’s curriculums. We have been taught our whole lives that we go to high school to get into college, and we graduate from college to get a job. So why don’t we learn how to job hunt and interview before we graduate from college? And why aren’t we taught it’s not as simple as picking a career path and following it through. You will change your mind and go through numerous hats until you find your Met Gala worthy headpiece. This is where coping with failure, perseverance, and a strong sense of self-come in handy.

A Sense of Self

Having a strong sense of self-allows you to take risks and trust yourself. Believe that you don’t need just to be what everyone else is, you can be anything. Exposure to more nontraditional job markets, case studies, and hands-on experiences make us think outside the box at a younger age. We don’t need to enroll our kids in all these fancy after school camps if schools were adequate to incorporate what matters.

When you take the time to focus on yourself, you create a hunger for curiosity, growth, retrospect, and more. You begin to imagine situations and scenarios where you can lead and change things. This curiosity and sense of self-help when it comes to your purpose in life. Once I started focusing on me and the things I liked and disliked, I began seeing a clearer path for future endeavors. For example, a couple of years ago I thought I wanted to do law; I liked writing, reading, and I wanted to help people. AKA that was what you did when you liked those things — or that was what I was told was what you did.

You can do anything you want in the world. Kids these days are aspiring to cure cancer, grow teeth, clone organs, disrupt industries and bring light to the darkest places in the world.

Parting Thoughts 

This post by no means is meant to diminish the value of our education — merely highlight gaps. Education is the most important thing you will receive in your lifetime. However, disrupting the system which currently exists is something that needs to happen. In my opinion, there is too much memorization and not enough real-world material to use and apply.

They teach you about Christopher Columbus coming to America, how to solve for x, and how to make a pit stop at your locker and the bathroom before getting to class in three minutes.

What they don’t teach you:

  • Emotional intelligence is just as necessary for men as it is for women.
  • Labels and categories are guidelines, not stamps.
  • Mental health is just as important as physical health.
  • Stigmas can be broken.
  • Majority of the time you won’t get a job by applying traditionally, you will have to hustle.
  • There is more to life than just being a doctor, lawyer, and engineer.
  • Survival skills make you vigilant and are not only for boy scouts.
  • Failure is the best fear introduced in your life and should be welcomed with open arms and then crushed.

If we learned all these things in school, we would be some bad ass people.

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Michael Berhane, Founder of POCIT
Rabiah Damji
Rabiah Damji

Rabiah is passionate about marketing, thought leadership, and women empowerment. Bridging a gap between people and products, Rabiah is currently on the Consumer Product Marketing team at Twitter Inc.

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