Soft skills are crucial for college and life success

23 May

Whether or not students choose college or vocational training at the end of their high school career, our goal as a society should be that children should be “college ready.” David T. Conley writes in the ASCD article, What Makes a Student College Ready?

Caralee J. Adams reports in the Education Week article, ‘Soft Skills’ Pushed as Part of College Readiness:

To make it in college, students need to be up for the academic rigor. But that’s not all. They also must be able to manage their own time, get along with roommates, and deal with setbacks. Resiliency and grit, along with the ability to communicate and advocate, are all crucial life skills. Yet, experts say, many teenagers lack them, and that’s hurting college-completion rates.
“Millennials have had helicopter parents who have protected them,” said Dan Jones, the president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors and the director of counseling and psychological services at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. “They haven’t had the opportunity to struggle. When they come to college and bad things happen, they haven’t developed resiliency and self-soothing skills….”
“The expectations are not in alignment with reality,” said Harlan Cohen, the author of The Naked Roommate and 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into In College, published last year. “Students do not have the communication skills to navigate through adversity that is part of the normal transition to college….”
A holistic approach to college readiness that integrates academic content, college knowledge, and psychology may be what’s needed to help more students complete college, said Andrea Venezia, a project director at WestEd, a research organization based in San Francisco. Rather than compartmentalization of college-readiness efforts, she advocates early training that includes noncognitive strategies and habits of mind that give students internal strength to persist….

Soft skills are skills associated with “emotional intelligence.”

Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A. have written the excellent article, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) for HELPGUIDE.Org.

What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and diffuse conflict. Emotional intelligence impacts many different aspects of your daily life, such as the way you behave and the way you interact with others.
If you have a high emotional intelligence you are able to recognize your own emotional state and the emotional states of others and engage with people in a way that draws them to you. You can use this understanding of emotions to relate better to other people, form healthier relationships, achieve greater success at work, and lead a more fulfilling life.
Emotional intelligence consists of four attributes:
• Self-awareness – You recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior, know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.
• Self-management – You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
• Social awareness – You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
• Relationship management – You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.
Why is emotional intelligence (EQ) so important?
As we know, it’s not the smartest people that are the most successful or the most fulfilled in life. You probably know people who are academically brilliant and yet are socially inept and unsuccessful at work or in their personal relationships. Intellectual intelligence or IQ isn’t enough on its own to be successful in life. IQ can help you get into college but it’s EQ that will help you manage the stress and emotions of sitting your final exams.
Emotional intelligence affects:
• Your performance at work. Emotional intelligence can help you navigate the social complexities of the workplace, lead and motivate others, and excel in your career. In fact, when it comes to gauging job candidates, many companies now view emotional intelligence as being as important as technical ability and require EQ testing before hiring.
• Your physical health. If you’re unable to manage your stress levels, it can lead to serious health problems. Uncontrolled stress can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. The first step to improving emotional intelligence is to learn how to relieve stress.
• Your mental health. Uncontrolled stress can also impact your mental health, making you vulnerable to anxiety and depression. If you are unable to understand and manage your emotions, you’ll also be open to mood swings, while an inability to form strong relationships can leave you feeling lonely and isolated.
• Your relationships. By understanding your emotions and how to control them, you’re better able to express how you feel and understand how others are feeling. This allows you to communicate more effectively and forge stronger relationships, both at work and in your personal life.

Whether one calls success traits “emotional intelligence” or “soft skills” is really not important. The traits associated are those more likely to result in a successful outcome for the student.

Bradford Holmes of Varsity Tutors wrote in the U.S. News article, Hone the Top 5 Soft Skills Every College Student Needs about soft skills a college ready individual should possess:

1. Collaboration: It is imperative for college-bound students to function efficiently and appropriately in groups, collaborate on projects and accept constructive criticism when working with others. People who succeed only when working alone will struggle in college and beyond, as the majority of careers require collaboration.
Students can develop the skills necessary to effectively work with others in numerous ways, including participating in athletics and extracurricular activities. They can also opt to complete team-based projects such as service activities during their later years in high school.
2. Communication and interpersonal skills: A common complaint among employers is that young people do not know how to effectively carry on a conversation and are unable to do things like ask questions, listen actively and maintain eye contact.
The current prevalence of electronic devices has connected young individuals to one another, but many argue it has also lessened their ability to communicate face-to-face or via telephone. These skills will again be important not only in college, where students must engage with professors to gain references and recommendations for future endeavors, but beyond as well.
An inability to employ these skills effectively translates poorly in college and job interviews, for instance. High school students can improve these traits by conversing with their teachers in one-to-one settings. This is also excellent training for speaking with college professors. Obtaining an internship in a professional setting is also a wonderful method to enhance communication and interpersonal skills.
3. Problem-solving: Students will be faced with a number of unexpected challenges in life and receive little or no aid in overcoming them. They must be able to solve problems in creative ways and to determine solutions to issues with no prescribed formula.
Students who are accustomed to learned processes, and who cannot occasionally veer off-course, will struggle to handle unanticipated setbacks. Students can improve problem-solving abilities by enrolling in classes that use experiential learning rather than rote memorization. Students should also try new pursuits that place them in unfamiliar and even uncomfortable situations, such as debate club or Science Olympiad.
4. Time management: Whatever structure students may have had in high school to organize their work and complete assignments in a timely manner will be largely absent in college. It is imperative that they be fully self-sufficient in managing their time and prioritizing actions.
The ability to track multiple projects in an organized and efficient manner, as well as intelligently prioritize tasks, is also extremely important for students long after graduation.
Students can improve this skill by assuming responsibility in multiple areas during high school – nothing develops an ability to prioritize faster than necessity – or gaining professional employment experience through internships, volunteer work or other opportunities.
5. Leadership: While it is important to be able to function in a group, it is also important to demonstrate leadership skills when necessary. Both in college and within the workforce, the ability to assume the lead when the situation calls for it is a necessity for anyone who hopes to draw upon their knowledge and “hard” skills in a position of influence.
Companies wish to hire leaders, not followers. The best way for students to develop this skill as they prepare for college is to search for leadership opportunities in high school. This could mean, among other things, acting as captain of an athletic team, becoming involved in student government or leading an extracurricular group.

Moi wrote in The ‘whole child’ approach to education: Many children do not have a positive education experience in the education system for a variety of reasons. Many educators are advocating for the “whole child” approach to increase the number of children who have a positive experience in the education process.

In order to ensure that ALL children have a basic education, we must take a comprehensive approach to learning.

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©


Linking Social Development and Behavior to School Readiness

Social and Emotional Learning

College readiness: What are ‘soft skills’

Many NOT ready for higher education

Study: What skills are needed for ’21st-century learning?’

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr.

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