When it comes to preparing your child for college, there is probably a clear focus on a robust curriculum and challenging classes that keep students engaged and prepared for college-level coursework. These are the ‘hard skills’ that prepare them for advanced mathematics, language, social science, or science majors.
What sets some students apart as they transition to college are academic soft skills. Learning the soft skills essential to college and career success fully prepares your child for the challenges and expectations of university professors and hiring executives. Knowing that their soft skills are well developed also promotes confidence as young people work toward achieving independence.
Typically soft skills are described as character traits, behaviors, and attitudes rather than technical skills or knowledge. Also known as transferable skills because they are not confined to a single subject or area of expertise, soft skills are highly sought after in advanced education and today’s job market.
Soft skills are those that help us:
Focusing on these soft skills as part of every student’s college and career readiness skills list can help students achieve the most in post-secondary education and career objectives. Is your child’s middle or high school putting enough focus on these essential skills?
By accessing and analyzing information, students develop critical thinking skills. Critical thinking allows us to comprehend, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and apply the information we are given while recognizing logical inconsistencies. Developing these skills in middle and high school empowers students to come to logical conclusions and offer questions, theories, and solutions that solve difficult real-world problems.
Critical thinking and problem solving are essential skills to learn before college, when young people will be expected to make logical inferences, consider new viewpoints, and tackle unsolved issues. Critical thinking is also creative thinking and encourages persistence by embracing failures as essential to eventual success. When coursework and teachers encourage these skills rather than simple memorization and recitation, students develop agile minds at a young age.
These solid ‘adulting’ skills set your college-ready student up for success. Beyond mastering self-care skills and hard skills like budgeting, being independent requires managing time and fulfilling one’s responsibilities or dealing with the consequences. Learning delayed gratification and investment toward later rewards sets us up for successfully reaching our long-term goals.
Gifted and 2e students might be less advanced in these soft skills because they find group coursework too easy to challenge their time management or prioritization skills. In a smaller or one-on-one class setting, every student can be challenged at the level appropriate for them, and work at a pace that is simultaneously engaging and expanding their abilities. In a one-on-one setting, personal responsibility is at the forefront, and students see immediate feedback about their developing self-management skills.
Fostering enthusiasm and confidence in young people prepares them to succeed, encourages adaptability, and promotes agile thinking. Enthusiastic students and confident learners ask questions, share insightful comments, and go the extra mile outside the classroom to satisfy their own curiosity and interest. Parents and teachers that encourage and recognize these skills help shape optimistic attitudes and fully engaged students who willingly take on leadership roles.
One way to promote confidence in a college-bound high school student is to have them experience Early College High School. ECHS offers high school students who are academically mature the opportunity to get their feet wet on a college campus. While working toward high school graduation, these students are earning college credit and developing confidence by achieving success at an early age.
Learning how to set concrete goals, create an action plan, and follow through to greater achievements is an essential soft skill that transfers from one area of life to another. As students achieve clearly defined educational milestones they develop higher ambitions and a greater determination to succeed.
Working one-on-one with teachers and mentors, this essential life skill can be encouraged and expanded. Each student might take a different path to the goal of academic success, one which is focused on their own passions and talents. Rather than prescribing standardized goals and techniques, teaching high school students to identify their personal goals, proactively plan to achieve them, and follow through by leveraging their own talents should be part of any college readiness skills checklist.
Today’s global and technological environment requires effective communication across a variety of formats. In-person, teleconference, auditory, and written communication skills are all essential to a well-rounded college student or career job seeker. Effectively communicating our thoughts, ideas and feelings in group and individual settings is a vital academic soft skill.
Experiencing all of these formats in high school helps students recognize their audience and use visual cues, tone of voice, and spoken or written language to accurately communicate about themselves and make meaningful contributions and connections in college and the workplace.
Working as a team member on group projects and initiatives is another important soft skill for young people to develop in middle and high school. In an educational setting where diversity, equity, and inclusion are a priority, students learn early to respect and value diverse perspectives and recognize the benefits of including a broad range of viewpoints and life experiences in a successful team.
Developing unbiased listening skills and being fully comfortable in diverse groups during middle and high school helps students engage in their college community and classrooms with confidence and consideration for others. Conflict resolution and inclusion skills empower all of us to succeed in the modern world.
While being a collaborative team player is very important in many situations, leadership skills are one of the most highly sought-after soft skills for career success. Leaders guide productive teams by a combination of soft skills and hard knowledge, keeping teams focused and positively moving forward.
In middle and high school, students display natural leadership skills as they influence their peers and are given time to participate in sports, social clubs, performance schedules, and outside activities. Leading by influence requires more awareness of how to motivate and encourage others than leading by simple authority. Teachers and parents can encourage leadership opportunities for young people by scheduling around these important activities.
Students who are actively curious and imaginative develop a lifelong love of learning and curiosity about new advances in technology, science, or social endeavors. Active learners keep going after the class ends, pursuing their sparked interests and learning more about the subjects that inspire them.
Mastery Learning approaches to high school make the interests and talents of the student the focal point of the curriculum. Instead of passively receiving information in a lecture hall setting, Mastery Learning encourages students to become active learners who think outside the box and never stop reaching for greater knowledge, skills, and understanding.
Once certain ‘hard’ skills are learned, and a student identifies and improves on their natural talents and abilities, they are prepared to transfer what they have learned to new and different environments. This overarching ability to draw conclusions about new problems based on skills and knowledge learned elsewhere is the essence of agility and achievement in a rapidly changing world.
Supporting each student’s journey to self-awareness and understanding of their own unique abilities sets them on a course of continued advancement and personal satisfaction. Encouraging the ability to shift their strengths to new environments and challenges will fully prepare your child to succeed at college, in their chosen career, or in their entrepreneurial dreams.
As students mature into young adults, we go from directing them toward their goals and advocating for their success to passing these responsibilities into their own capable hands. While we may not agree with each and every decision, developing the skills to advocate for themselves will ensure they can independently succeed as they move into adulthood.
Students who are encouraged to identify when they need help and proactively seek it out become resilient people who succeed even when a situation is not in their areas of strength. Self-directed learning promotes these skills as students become internally motivated rather than dependent on external evaluations. When our academic pursuits are self-rewarding, students learn to advocate for their own success and motivate themselves to achieve their dreams.
At Lydian Academy, we promote the soft and hard skills all students need to fully realize their potential and develop their love of learning. With remote and on-campus classes in a one-to-one format with flexible scheduling, students can pursue their true passion for education and arrive at college confident and enthusiastic about every opportunity.
If you are considering a different approach for your middle or high school student, attend a virtual open house or tour our campuses in Burlingame and Menlo Park, CA. Lydian Academy offers the personalized attention that can help your child develop their own skills and abilities to prepare for their fulfilling and exciting future.