As professors, we accept that our students will be novices in our designated content area. It is our job to teach them. Yet we often complain that our students lack soft skills necessary for success during their first year in college.
Time management skills:
Part of a successful first year in college hinges on a student’s ability to manage their time and meet deadlines. Late work is not accepted in college, and this is a devastating lesson for many students to learn. I have taught many lessons on the topic of time management to my freshman classes, and the lessons focus partly on the importance of time management but predominantly on strategies and tools for students to adopt.
It would be advantageous for high school teachers too, if they aren’t already, emphasize the importance of organization and time management and also introduce students to different scheduling techniques and modes (calendar on phone, synced with email, weekly vs daily agenda, etc.) and also the essential skill of prioritizing.
Problem-solving/ Research skills:
Instilling in students the importance of finding information, and finding reliable information, is very important. In many aspects of our lives, we are accustomed to instant gratification, but we can’t expect others to do our work for us. Many of my colleagues and I have noticed our students wanting us to tell them where to find the information or essentially give them what they need to write a report.
All content areas require research and many entry level jobs will require employees to find information for themselves or for their bosses, so teaching our students how and where to find the information they need is very important for them moving forward. I often teach lessons on how to effectively use Google which includes search tips and also how to evaluate the reliability of websites.
Note-taking & Study Skills:
A student can quickly become overwhelmed and get behind in their courses if they have not developed a note-taking style that works for them. Students should experiment with different notetaking styles in high school so that way they can begin college with a model that works for them. As teachers, we can’t assume everyone takes notes the same way, so it’s our job to teach our students different ways and let them choose what works best for them.
This is also true of study skills. High school teachers can have their students take learning style inventories to discover how they learn best and then use that style to study more effectively.
In essence, the more a student understands about how they learn, the better they can adapt their own behavior to be more successful. They also need to understand the expectations going into college; independence is a wonderful thing, but it can be scary for students and also detrimental when they are unable to stay on top of the work without someone helping them stay organized. All of these skills are things that all adults continue to work at and improve as our lives and careers change, but students with a solid foundation in these areas have a greater chance of success.