Focus on Noncognitive Skills Helps Students Get Ready for College

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Dr. Joyya P. Smith

Preparing students for college involves more than sending transcripts and a college application. Today, students need a college readiness profile that includes a record of involvement in community activities, sports or student organizations.

Educators who prepare students for college admissions are now faced with ensuring that students have the staying power for completing a postsecondary program of study. In fact, noncognitive factors or soft skills are being credited as a student’s ticket to being successful beyond college enrollment.

Educators are now focusing on the development of noncognitive factors, which include  creativity, self-efficacy, motivation, confidence and self-regulation. These skills help students not just to enroll in college but to graduate in a timely manner. According to current research, development of a positive academic mindset, strong academic behaviors, social skills and learning strategies are vital components to helping students excel.

Here are a few tips for activities that help students increase soft skills:

  • Help students develop an electronic portfolio of their academic and social involvement achievements that can be updated before and during college.
  • Help students prepare for interviews for college admissions, jobs and other special opportunities. Videotape the interview and give students feedback on how to improve their odds of acing the interview.
  • Start summer enrichment programs geared toward helping students maintain academic skills to avoid summer brain drain and allow for creativity, collaboration and teamwork.
  • Provide workshops on topics related to developing a positive academic mindset, helpful academic behaviors, perseverance, learning strategies and social skills.

Getting accepted into college requires more than just a great GPA. Students must be ready to develop and strengthen their noncognitive skills, which will help them develop an acceptance-ready profile while giving them the endurance to make it to college graduation.

Ultimately, 21st-century students should be critical thinkers, good communicators and great collaborators who are flexible, adaptable, innovative, creative, financially literate and globally competent.

Dr. Joyya P. Smith is director of educational opportunity programs at Georgia Southern University.