College Success: Key Skills Most Students Lack

Study Skills laptop with pen and booksBasic study skills are always in demand. By junior high and high school students should be able to organize materials, take effective class notes, and track assignments. In college students need to study differently. Most of my college classes involved a paper (or two), a midterm, and a final exam. I didn’t have quizzes, homework, or assignments to encourage me to study. I had to motivate myself and keep track of a large amount of information over time. Students need to develop the ability to study independently. Many college students expect their professors to tell them what to learn and are surprised when they are told, “Study everything.” Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams in high school provide an opportunity for students to develop some of the study skills they will need in college. These exams are comprehensive and require students to study throughout the year in order to master the volume of content tested. Some high school final exams can provide the same experience, but too often teachers limit the scope of material and go to great lengths to spoon feed the content to students. Most college finals don’t come with a detailed review sheet. Students need to be ready.

Independent Living Skills

Even the smartest student won’t succeed in college if he can’t take care of day to day tasks. College students need to be independent enough to set their own schedules. They need to wake up and get to class without mom nagging them to go. Everyone around them hopes they can do laundry and bathe on a regular basis. Staying healthy helps, so eating regularly, taking medication if necessary, and addressing physical needs is basic. Most high school students practice these skills on a regular basis, but some don’t. I’ve known high school seniors whose moms wake them up every morning, make sure they get to school, and take care of every detail. Reminders may be necessary, but doing everything for your child may be denying them the opportunity to grow up.

Ability to Ask for Help

Successful college students know when to ask for help. They recognize when they would benefit from academic assistance and are willing to talk to a professor during office hours, go to the campus tutoring center, or stay after class to get a question answered. Some college students are stubborn to a fault. They see asking for help as a weakness so try to do it themselves or stick their heads in the sand and hope things get better. During junior high and high school parents may have to encourage these stubbornly independent students to seek help, so by the time they are in college they see it as a viable option. Seeking help in college applies to issues beyond the classroom. Some students don’t know when they should go to the campus health center and may ignore serious warning signs because they don’t know what to do. Other students experience social and emotional problems and would benefit from seeking help. Often seeking help for these problems is not something we can teach our kids in high school. Parents can keep in touch with college age kids and listen for signs of trouble and encourage students to seek help on campus.

Openness to New People and Opportunities

Some students sabotage their college experience before it even starts. They are nervous about meeting new people, so they surround themselves with friends from high school and refuse to meet new people or consider new opportunities. Sometimes parents help in this self-imposed isolation by setting the student up in off campus housing and encouraging him or her to come home every weekend. Freshman year is challenging and some students will be homesick, but if they are encouraged to meet new people and participate in campus clubs, organizations, and social activities they will adapt faster and have a more fulfilling college experience.   What tips do you have for helping kids develop the skills necessary to succeed in college? Leave your ideas in the comment section below.]]>

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