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The Best Way to Succeed in College? It Might Not Be Academics

The Best Way to Succeed in College? It Might Not Be Academics

It seems like a no-brainer — the smartest kids are the ones who thrive in college. Right? Sometimes it works out that way, but not always. Admissions officers and counselors at colleges and universities nationwide have begun to take a closer look at what truly allows students to succeed, and what they’re finding is very interesting — and an argument against standardized test-based curricula and nights locked away studying.

The best indication of how a college student will perform overall in college is how well they do in their first year at the school, not in high school (The Guardian). Beginning college brings up a host of issues for students that have nothing to do with the classroom, including time management skills, dealing with roommates, and caring for themselves for the first time. These “soft skills” are often the difference between success and failure in college.

Many bright students have no idea how to tackle these social and personal issues, due to the rise of helicopter parenting and too much focus on academics and getting into a top school. They haven’t had the time to develop sophisticated social skills that will allow them to navigate the complex landscape of college. And the problem seems to get worse every year: think of the student who never learns how to do laundry, and brings it all home for his mother to do every weekend, or the graduate student who still doesn’t know how to cook and orders in every night. They may star academically, but how important are those accomplishments, compared to the basic life skills?

How we can help

How can we ensure that students are learning everything that they need to know, both inside and outside the classroom? If you’re a parent, make sure that you’re not doing everything for your child. He or she should know how to do laundry, cook basic food, and get themselves up in the morning. If you’re a teacher or administrator, push for life skills classes to be included in the curriculum at your school — a tough order, when budgets are being slashed left and right.

The first year experience

Many colleges and universities now require incoming freshman to participate in a program known as the first year experience (FYE). These programs tackle all the issues of college, academic and social, and help prepare freshmen for what lies ahead in their college career. Specific topics that FYEs usually cover include dealing with stress, homesickness, roommate problems, dating, alcohol, depression, and anything else that might trip a student up in his or her first year of college.

Although many FYE programs are very new, they seem to be effective. Students need to talk about and have guidance on the issues that really matter most and a lot of the time, that doesn’t mean academics. The best thing we can do to ensure that students eventually become productive, competent members of society is to acknowledge that these social issues need to be addressed, and to give the support and guidance that is required.

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Photo credit: SMBCollege

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55 comments

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11:39AM PST on Feb 21, 2013

teach life skills too!

7:57PM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Hello sister nerd Heidi. Overstudying got me through college and grad school.

7:55PM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Goodie for national service. I am 43 in 2013, and I am unlikely to be involved. In a few years I will even be older than the age 45 cutoff during World War II.

6:32PM PST on Dec 30, 2012

the fye program sounds good we shold have that in aus

11:24AM PST on Dec 30, 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhj8ITvp-pw

Sum of All Fears John C. Stennis attack scene


Obviously, day to day operations were out, in my case or in the movie.

11:19AM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Seems to me Judy that colleges make jobs for administrators, staff, and professors, and if YOU get a job you are lucky.

1. Marshall University - complete failure. Never had a job for which I was trained.
2. Shepherd University - relative failure. Worked once when a college education was required by statute (Census Bureau)
3. Community Colleges of Baltimore County - the kind of success the other two dream about, 13 years in I.T.

1:38AM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Ultimately I did graduate cum laude and to graduate school, but ultimately the state of Maryland concluded my Master's was inadequate in spite of Asperger syndrome and sent me to Baltimore for computer training. My career has been great ever since.

1:36AM PST on Dec 30, 2012

I agree with Heidi A., there are too many unprepared students in many colleges because those are the best they can find. I did not have that problem at Shepherd University, the average ACT/SAT scores meant that the best were trying to get in, aside from their obligations as a public then-college in West Virginia.

For two years I had excellent grades there until I hit an emotional crisis, yes, involving a woman. Eventually I did save our friendship, but in the short term I was completely destabilized, much like the scene in Sum of All Fears when the U.S.S. John C. Stennis is hit by multiple Russian anti-ship missiles. What made it worse was that my dad insisted I continue. I dropped from 3.8 to 1.2 in a semester. Makes me think I should have been home for repairs like the U.S.S. Yorktown.

10:54PM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Marie W.

If you were referring to me as "Tea Cup Student" you are a completely wrong. I am Democrat. I am all for equal opportunity. It means just that. Equal. Intelligence sees no color.

This was my personal and not totally complete account of my experience in college. I studied Cell and Molecular Biology and graduated with this degree.

I agree, about the comment from Deborah J. A year of military service prior to college. It would certainly teach self sufficiency skills.

You must be having/have had some difficulty yourself to be so nasty.

12:39PM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Interesting.

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