College provides a fantastic opportunity for young people to not only earn a diploma but also grow the skills they need to succeed in their future careers.
In many respects, college is becoming mandatory for certain career paths. By the year 2020, in fact, an expected 65% of all available jobs will require some level of postsecondary training or education.
Luckily, the same skills that colleges look for in students are the skills students should continue to develop as they journey through higher education. That means prospective college students can begin thinking about how they are growing these skills now, so they will be ready to meet the demands and expectations of colleges, universities, and future employers.
Just as important as academic learning, these five soft skills are necessary to increase college and career readiness:
Most students know that college will challenge them to become much more self-motivated and self-disciplined. With more free time and a less structured environment, college students learn to form their own schedules, make decisions about their mental and physical health, and prioritize studying and assignments to meet deadlines.
Self-motivation is also an important life-skill that all types of careers will require. Though some careers will include structure and formulaic assignments, employers prefer to work with an individual who knows how to self-motivate, especially during busy times. Those who can learn to motivate themselves, foster their own growth, and manage their time wisely will easily become top-rated and sought-after students and employees.
Start working on your self-motivation by listing your priorities, setting goals, and keeping a calendar. The more you check in with yourself, the better you will recognize what motivates you and how to carry out the actions that will lead you to your goals.
2. Critical Thinking
College is the perfect time to deepen critical thinking, but this is a skill most students should be working on in high school as well. Thinking critically requires a deeper level of engagement with material both inside and outside of the classroom.
Do you question the status quo, or do you take information at face value? In order to think critically, you must have your own opinions but also know how to research thoroughly to engage with texts, the media, and your own experiences.
Both college admissions officers and future employers will look for critical thinking in a potential candidate. They want to know that you will take the time to evaluate and thoroughly explore options before making decisions.
This is a readiness skill that develops with time and experience, but it is also a skill students can practice now. Both verbal and non-verbal communication are essential skills in college and in the workplace because no matter what industry you enter, you will need to effectively interact with others.
The good news is you can practice communication skills at home, at school, and at work right now. Keep a journal describing your experiences through various interactions with family members, teachers, friends, and co-workers. What kind of verbal or nonverbal signals do you receive from the people you communicate with most often? What signals do you send that seem to work favorably? How can you communicate more clearly and effectively in all aspects of your life?
The more you learn about your own communication style, the better prepared you will be for your future and working well with others.
4. Knowledge Integration
Though sometimes it may feel as if studying for one test at a time is all you can do, integrating the academic knowledge you learn in school into your life and work is so important. Not only will integrating academic knowledge into your life make school more interesting, it will help you combine your academic work with your interpersonal and soft skills in your future career.
What are you learning about? How can you apply that knowledge to your life? Where do you see that knowledge applied outside of school?
You can start practicing this skill by pursuing jobs, internships, or work-based learning opportunities where you can utilize your academic knowledge in a real-life working environment. Applying both academic and technical knowledge to real-world settings is a perfect way to ready yourself for college and your future career.
Perhaps one of the most important readiness skills for college, career, and beyond is perseverance, or grit. No matter what path you decide to take for higher education or your career, you will likely face many challenges along the way.
The ability to recover from failures is the only sure way to success. Work hard, learn from mistakes, and continue to grow. That’s all anyone can ever ask for, and if you learn to persevere now, you will be ready for bumps in the road in both college and your future career path.