Lessons In Finance: High School Students Need a 3 a.m. Wake-Up Call

With the new school year well underway, I want to talk about that dirty word for students -- homework.

It seems it now is a dirty word for some Ontario school boards, too, as they have placed limits on the amount of homework students can be assigned. Some have even gone so far as to ban homework altogether in the early grades.

While I can see the merits of reducing the homework burden at the elementary level, I think we do our high school students a disservice if we lessen the expectation of their workload outside the classroom.

If anything, in today's competitive global economy we need to raise the bar higher. Telling students to study more and socialize less may be easier said than done. Believe me I know, but we owe it to our young people to keep trying and not give up.

When I was in elementary school I was a pretty conscientious student who spent many a night doing at least an hour worth of homework.

In Grade 5, I can remember watching with envy from my bedroom window as my school friend Terry was playing and hanging out with other kids in the neighbourhood. I, however, stayed committed to my studies and eventually was rewarded for it.

I won the academic award for my elementary school and was accepted -- along with everyone else who passed Grade 8 -- to our local high school.

Like many elementary school friends who enter high school together, Terry and I started hanging out with different crowds and pursuing different interests. Mine was getting out more and having fun. I still wanted to get decent grades, but having a social life was certainly a much greater priority.

Playing sports let me hang with the jock crowd and my social calendar was kept busy enough to keep my head out of the books.

During my grad year, high school was a blast and I had the confident swagger seniors get when they think they have life by the tail. Sure enough, I was in for a wake up call.

For me, it happened around 3 a.m. at an all-night graduation event being held at Canada's Wonderland.

There I met up with my old elementary school chum Terry and we caught up with each other while he drank his new favourite beverage, coffee. I told Terry how I was having so much fun this past year and I asked how his final year had gone.

He sighed, and seemed relieved it was over. Turns out he had been doing at least two hours of homework a night in his final year and even more prepping for his exams, hence the coffee.

He was heading off to Queen's University to take biology and chemistry. I on the other hand was still waiting to hear back from my top school selection.

When I left him that night, I knew I had not pushed myself to anywhere close to my potential. Unlike elementary school, my high school marks mattered.

I ended up not getting into the top-tier university of my choice and there were no graduation awards or scholarships for my half- hearted effort.

Luckily, I got that wake-up call early enough to make changes and eventually was able to get on the right track.

From there, I soon realized that the years of university and post-graduation were the real party.

Nothing in high school came close to the fun times and lasting memories of those years. Independence and disposable income really are a fantastic combination!

Your greatest years of socializing and utter freedom shouldn't be in high school -- too much of your life lies ahead of you to be looking in the rear-view mirror.

It is true that not every student is bound for university or college, but all students can push themselves to reach their potential whatever that may be.

The stakes are even higher today in our competitive global economy.

Students today are not only competing with the kid sitting beside them for post-secondary spots, but also with students all around the world.

The safety net of low-skilled jobs that are held by some of the parents of today's students are now heading elsewhere and even if a high school grad can find one, it soon won't pay anywhere close to what their parents received.

So if you are in high school and sacrificing your social life as you study long hours or master your trade for our skills-based economy, don't worry, your party is up around the bend.

But if you're a student without a marketable skill, doing little work, but having an absolute blast, well enjoy, but your party may soon be over.

Take more lessons at Financial Fridays at Public #onted