As an educational consultant who spends 25% of her time touring colleges and meeting with admissions deans or committees, Leigh Anne Spraetz often hears what skills high school students need to spend more time developing. Here is her list of Top 10:
Time management and Organizational Skills: With all that today’s students have to juggle, you would think that many would be masters at time management and organizational skills. Not so, say those who work with students once they enter college. In fact, their schedules have been so pre-planned for them by the demands of school, sports, activities, clubs and other commitments, that they often haven’t had much experience at setting priorities with choices in what to do with their time. The college experience offers numerous planned and spontaneous events. Without parental supervision, many students who don’t methodically plan may find themselves underestimating the time it takes to study and be prepared for class at a college level.
Written and Communication Skills: Written and communication skills are often the top academic skills that educators say students today are lacking. Hence, the importance of this is being demonstrated by the focus on the writing section of the SAT and the optional ACT writing component. Students write for most courses in college, and must be able to clearly communicate the points they support or argue. These are top skills employers are looking for, too. There are many summer academic programs that can help students who need further development in this area.
Social Skills: As the developer of social skills program in Alpharetta, Georgia, in which over 475 students have attended, Ms. Spraetz clearly sees how students need to develop this skill. As job opportunities in our nation continue to move more toward the service industry sector, social skills will continue to become most important for students finding life-long success in their careers and relationships.
Problem-solving Skills: College faculty and administration continue to report that many students are so used to having answers and support on demand that they aren’t able to solve basic problems without consulting someone else. Prime examples are students calling home to solve issues with roommates or a professor, or even to ask what headache medication to buy. Cell phones and text messaging availability can provide instant answers, but students need, at this age, to be thinking of how to solve some of these problems themselves.
Study Skills: When Ms. Spraetz asks every high school student she works with how they prepare for a major test, they often report that their study skills are “fair” or “not very good”. When asked if they have a test on Friday, when they would start studying, many report Thursday night. She then discusses how this won’t work with the required outside reading and studying that it takes to prepare for college-level tests. In their freshman year, many students underestimate the time that class preparation and studying will require.
Independence: Every high school student longs for the freedom that comes with living away at college. In fact, when asked what students are looking forward to most in getting out of college, many reply freedom and becoming more independent. Students need to learn, with increased opportunity in their high school years, that independence and freedom must be earned by showing respect and responsibility.
Assertiveness: Again, from leading social skills groups for many years, Ms. Spraetz has recognized the need for students to learn more about being assertive, rather than being passive or aggressive when resolving conflict. This can head off many small problems from growing into larger problems that can affect focus, concentration, and from being able to maximize the overall learning experience of college living.
Career Orientation: Many students come to Ms. Spraetz, with thoughts of a college major that they have “learned” about from the media or heard about from friends, such as forensics or film writing. They romanticize these fields based on what they see on t.v. They often don’t know what is really involved on a daily basis, how competitive the field may be, or what heavy concentration of class subjects are most prevalent in the careers they are considering. Ms. Spraetz has actually worked with many college graduates who aren’t happy at all with the field that they have chosen, once they have graduated and have entered the “real world” of their chosen major. Through assessments and exploration, she helps to educate students about their personality, abilities, and career interests, so they will know more about themselves and how certain careers would or would not be a match for them.
Financial Management: It is important to discuss expectations and a budget before a student leaves home. It is good for them to have some experience in managing their own money. Students are often approached by financial institutions offering credit card accounts while in college. Tell them that they will be targets, and to avoid this temptation by staying within the options and budget that the parents have provided.
Resiliency: An important trait for students to develop is resilience, or the ability to bounce back from setbacks, disappointments, and failures. Many students today want instant answers, instant gratification, and instant reward. A new trend concerning college officials is that 60% of students are changing schools two to five times because they aren’t quite happy where they are. While this is sometimes warranted because they may not have chosen the right academic or social environment the first time, changing often wastes time, money and doesn’t allow them to work through issues that they may not like, but could adapt to with additional problem solving approaches. This will be a requirement for success in the career world.