8 essential skills for college students

essential skills for college students

Success at college requires a diverse set of skills and it’s not as simple as being a good student in high school and continuing that on to college. It’s no that you should disregard what has got you here but there is much that needs to be added as in higher learning more is expected of you. You need to be able to think critically and construct an argument using critical thinking. In this post, we will look at the top essential skills every college student must develop to be successful.

Even though the world is constantly moving at a pace faster than light, there are fundamental skills that will never go out of fashion when it comes to thriving as a person. College is one of the top places in your life where the words “thrive”  and “successful” have a lot of weight. Here are eight essential skills you will need to thrive at college, pay heed to this guide and you will do well.

Skim Reading

Now we’re not saying to neglect thorough study. However, with the volume of academic material that exists out there, it’s sometimes a useful skill to be able to have a quick skim read to see if an academic article is going to be useful to you in your assignment or your research. The first place to check out academic articles are the short preview texts, these are named abstracts, this is a summary of what the journal article is about and gives you an idea if it’s worth reading the whole thing.

Prioritizing Your Time

Time management is essential as there is so much to do and, like we just talked about, endless academic materials you can read up on. Unlike school, you are not going to be as guided in what study to do each week. There is no set of homework assignments. You also are going to be juggling much more in your day to day life, maybe a part-time job and a more vibrant social life than you were used to. So it’s important to devise a schedule to set certain times away from other distractions to concentrate on studying. You will have a recommended amount of time on most courses for self-study so be sure to at least meet this if not exceed it.

Exam Skills

A big part of college assessment comes in the form of exams. So you can be great in class learn lots and if you struggle at sitting exams you can still struggle to get good grades. So it’s important to prepare properly for any exam, make sure you keep your notes in good order and that they make sense to you, and are easily accessible. Create a study timetable with the aims and goals of what you should have achieved and what dates you aim to achieve them by. When studying, and especially when you are taking sample papers, try and do so in conditions that as closely as possible mimic the exam hall, so no music or phones or other distractions. Why not get a private tutor if you are still struggling and these can be found for any type of exam, for example, it’s easy to find a good SIE Exam Tutor or any other specialist online.

Using Academic References

It’s important to use academic sources when giving evidence of your arguments in any academic work. You should avoid non-academic websites such as Yahoo, Huffington Post or social media posts, also casual reference sites such as Wikipedia should be avoided. You can use newspaper articles as a general background, but if you are trying to make an academic point then you should use proper academic sources. If an article on a website refers to academic research then try to find and reference the source studies rather than just quote the article. If you are in the early years of study then you can use course textbooks for references but you will get more credit for using proper academic sources.

Note Taking

If you know how to effectively take notes during lectures then it will help you retain the information much more efficiently. How note-taking works best vary between individuals, some like to write down as much info as possible, while others feel it better to just jot down summary points that jog their memory later on. Often others like to simply listen at the time and then listen back to a recording or video of the lecture later on and many universities offer this service to the students online.

Know-How to Write in an Academic Style

It’s important to write in an acceptable academic style. This can vary depending on what type of degree you are taking and often course leaders set a preferred or mandatory style for that course. Here are a few examples of some of the writing methods. If you are struggling there are always tutorial classes and study help available at your college library.

Refining Soft Skills

Getting a degree certainly improves your job prospects. But, your degree should also teach you the necessary soft-skills to thrive in the workplace.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are transferable qualities that help you succeed whatever task you turn to, whether that’s the ability to work well in a team or adapt to changes in your environment.

Put simply, soft skills are what happens once you jump off the resume and into a real-life conversation. It is easy to assume that a high GPA or X number of years’ experience at a prestigious firm is reason enough for a company to hire or promote you over another candidate.

Top 5 Soft Skills to Focus in College:

  • Communication Skills
  • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
  • Financial Planning and Money Management
  • Time Management
  • Taking Constructing Criticism


College is an ideal environment to meet new people – you bump into potential friends, again and again, thanks to class projects, menacing midterms, and random parties. Out in the real world, getting to know interesting folks and maintaining these relationships takes a whole new skill set. Networking is unarguably the most effective job search strategy. So, it’s only wise to pay attention to how to network effectively.


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