There are no specifics but things I think you should know or consider before you venture out on your own:
Instruction - to take or not to take, what can I expect from class, application of what you learn
Basics of paddling technique - you know how to use your rod and reel efficiently, why not the kayak and paddle
Lifejacket/PFD - styles, use and proper fit
Clothing - dress to swim, synthetics vs cotton
Re-entry - solo, with two boat, in a group and differences between techniques in different situations
Re-entry aids - paddle float, stirrup
If you can't master solo re-entry, should you be paddling alone or with other beginners?
Debate of waders vs dry suit vs wetsuit
Do you carry a knife, where and why? Now, can you really get to it and use it like you've imagined or is it a peanut butter spreader? (This is very common in whitewater)
Safety and practicality of paddling in groups vs solo
Location, location, location - where you are paddling presents different safety issues, i.e. oystershell in shore vs deep water offshore
Weather conditions - current vs predicted vs mother nature
Float plan - who is it filed with and what to include
Knowing your skill level and limitations and how to improve them safely
First aid kits - what's in it, how do you use it, can you get to it if injured and use it?
When do you have too much "stuff"?
How often do you paddle and how often do you practice?
American Canoe Association - what is this? do I need to join? how does it benefit me?
These are things I think someone should have knowledge of when they start paddling. I'm not the authority, but I have been teaching paddling for about 15yrs. I'm an ACA instructor. Knock on wood, I've never had a major incident thanks to being able to foresee a potential problem and intervening.