Parents and educators (and students, listen up!), here’s the bottom line: Who do you want your student to be? This may be an equally important question (I’d venture to say more important) than “What do you want your student to do?” At first glance, the question may not seem to carry much depth. But on a very real level, who your student is being (characteristics, values, and non-cognitive skills) may be the best predictor of thriving in and beyond higher education. Yes, meeting the core content requirements for admission into your student’s preferred schools is important. However, what emerges when students can identify who they want to be in a particular situation, and then take action from that inner sense of what is important is a critical step, too. Think of concepts like leadership, problem-solving, curiosity, self-awareness, and self-advocacy (which lead to time management, getting things done, proactive communication…which lead to persistence and graduation…which lead to….). Not so concrete at first, right? We want to see our students not only attain benchmarks, but to thrive, explore, and become the professionals we want to work alongside today. Here are a couple of questions you may find helpful as you prompt your student toward a more holistic readiness, followed by a few very helpful, brief, online links that provide more info on what we're talking about here:

  • What kind of student do you want to be?
  • What does it mean to be X? (in charge of your own learning, focused, curious, a leader, etc.)
  • What are the building blocks of X? (effective communication, independence, being prepared, taking control)
  • What is a thriving college experience made of? Which ingredient of college success are you developing right now? Which steps will be taken by the student to create an experience in which s/he thrives?

College Parent Central’s Soft Skills, Strong Success: Fifteen Skills for College Readiness: From the article: “But college readiness also includes some of the “softer skills” that may be harder for schools to teach.  According to David Conley, college readiness is, “the degree to which previous educational and personal experiences have equipped [students] for the expectations and demands they will encounter in college.” 

EdWeek’s “'Soft Skills' Pushed as Part of College Readiness: From the article: ‘"If you ask me which makes a bigger impact on persistence, I'd say the noncognitive skills—unequivocally," said Jeff Nelson, a co-founder and the chief executive officer of OneGoal, which focuses on college completion.’

The ability to self-assess, explore characteristics, and build independence are foundational to development at this stage. In a jam-packed curriculum and busy life, where will you create the time for these critical steps?

Student walking on path with hand raised in power pose. Photo credit Viktor Hanecek

Student walking on path with hand raised in power pose. Photo credit Viktor Hanecek