Nearly 1/3 of all undergraduate students leave college after their first year. From the cost of education to personal constraints at home, students face additional pressures that weigh on their ability to complete college. The most surprising factor that leads to a student leaving college before graduation is a failure to live up to the self-imposed expectations of success while at school.
Getting through college is about finding balance between academic success and developing additional skills that can be utilized regardless area of study. There are a variety of soft skills a student should possess, such as time management, attention to detail, and the ability to effectively communicate both verbally and in writing, in addition to others in this vein. For students to truly succeed in college and leave school with applicable skills regardless of their career path, it’s important to recognize there is more to higher education than coursework. It’s crucial all students are given opportunities to hone these soft skills as they learn.
The will to succeed - Grit
Sherry Woosley, Director of Analytics and Research at Skyfactor, believes the “true essence” of grit, a popular topic in today’s academic circles, hones in on three essential concepts for students: focus, effort, and recovery. Students should be able to ask themselves whether they have the focus to accomplish what needs to get done, the ability to put forth the effort required to be successful, and the recovery strategy necessary to bounce back when things get rough. Instilling in students the tenants of grit gives them a coping mechanism to hunt for success in college and life, leading them toward the successes they will need to remain motivated to stay in college.
What you teach in the classroom beyond academics - the soft skills
Equally important to grit are the basic soft skills that one needs to progress in college, especially within that first year as students are adjusting to living a completely different lifestyle. Going from high school to college can be a jarring experience for some, but crafting the right combination of soft skills can enable students to cope with the changes they’re facing. Matthew Venaas, a Research Manager on the Analytics and Research Team at Skyfactor highlights a few key skills which can help students meet their expectations of success within their first year of college.
- Interpersonal skills - according to Venaas, first-year student who are able to build relationships with their peers to build a fulfilling social life and connect with faculty in their major or program are far more likely to have a high first-term GPA. Building a strong network can then can help lead a student to academic success. This skillset also plays out positively within the classroom for students who don’t shy away from collaboration. The willingness to work with other students, actively contributing to the conversation in the classroom, can also positively impact a student’s GPA, giving them a chance to grasp information they may have struggled with on their own.
- Persistence - this relates back to grit in not giving up when things get hard, but rather seeing a challenge as an opportunity to work even harder. Being resilient and self-motivated to do the absolute best you can, bouncing back when things are tough, is an important trait of successful students.
- Productivity - there are quite a few skills that could be placed into this category, most of which must be learned and practiced often. Staying organized and effectively managing time are two big areas students can struggle with as they transition into college.
While students won’t see the fruits of their labor until final grades come out each semester, it’s important to encourage them to build the right skillset throughout their college career that compliments academic achievement, so that no matter what they’re learning, or working on once they leave college, they’ll have the tools they need to find success.