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.
Of course, college is one of the top places in your life where the words “thrive” and “successful” have a lot of weight.
In today’s post, we outline 5 skills every college student needs to develop in order to be successful both on campus and long after you have graduated.
As few years ago I wrote an article for Forbes on the two traits that employers want from college graduates. Those traits haven't changed, but to be successful, you need a bit more.
1. Time Management Skills
Contrary to popular opinion, the best timer managers were not born with planners, calendars and alarm clocks in their hands.
We all agree that there are certain personality types who are more prone to be organized when it comes to time but by and large, time management is a skill anybody can learn.
Time management is not about filling every single hour with your day with an activity.
It is mindfully scheduling classes, activities and appointments on your calendar so that you achieve your academic goals while remaining relaxed enough to also enjoy the social aspects of college life.
A great example of how to master time management is given in Cal Newport’s book, How to Become A Straight A Student.
Here is a summary of what he suggests when it comes to time management.
A really handy time management skill for completing tasks - especially if it is not a class but a self-driven activity like completing homework assignments - is to set a timer for 45 minutes to 1 hour and focus on working on the assignment only during that time.
During this 45-60 minute time frame, you will turn off social media, your cell phone or minimize as many distractions around you as possible. This period is for deep work.
When your timer goes off, you are free to get up, stretch, take a walk or take a break before you.
Do this for 2-3 hour time blocks each day and you will be amazed at how far ahead you will be come semester’s end!
2. Study Skills
When it comes to study skills, it is best to know what works for YOU.
One style of study does not make a person a better student than the other. So play to your strengths.
If you are a highly visual person, can you create simple illustrations that allow break down complex ideas ?
If you are the note-taking kind, do you need to go back and read the assigned portions of the textbook, making your own notes/notecards ?
Once you determine that best way to study for you, use your scheduled study time to focus on those learning strengths.
A point here about studying for subjects you don’t like but have to take : it is always helpful to find a way to make it fun. If you are having trouble, definitely take advantage of your professor’s office hours to get their help on topics that are especially confusing for you and their advice on how you can do better in their class.
3. Research Skills
You can escape many things in college.
Writing college papers is not one of them - regardless of your major.
Writing an A+ paper means you need to have stellar research skills.
Here are a 5 tips to help you master the art of researching for a college paper.
- Find your sources. These days you can find anything by simply entering a Google search. However for more specific areas of study, you might want to use databases like PubMed, EbscoHost or Google Scholar. Another excellent place to find your sources and more databases are your school library’s online directory.
- Gather your most relevant sources and skim them for important details, charts , numbers etc.
- Summarize your findings from your sources. If you need to interview people, make sure to bring an audio recorder or use your cell phone voice recording function so you can summarize your interview later.
- Be clear on the citation format your professor is asking for on your paper (e.g APA style versus MLA style) so that you don’t do all the work in one way and have to change it around at the end
- Most college libraries will give you free access to citation software like EndNote or Write-N-Cite. With both of these, you can save your references in your personalized database and easily click a button to cite them as you write - saves you time on typing.
Now that you have done your research, it is time to put it all together using your own words to discuss the findings you made.
4. Social/Networking Skills
College life would not be balanced without a social life.
Even the most introverted of us all need to interact with other people once in awhile.
Like time management, while being social comes naturally to some people, the good news is that it is a very learnable skill.
And honestly, the relationships you build throughout your college life can have an immense impact on your life after college for years to come.In his book The Like Switch, by Jack Schafer , a former FBI agent talks about “friend signals” that can get people, even strangers, talking to you and liking you.
Another handy acronym for upping your social skills is F.O.R.M.
Over centuries, it has been found that if you are able to converse with people about their Family, Occupation, Recreational activities and/or their Motivations, those people are more likely to see you as a trusted friend.
5. Communication Skills
Last but not least, communication skills are a must for any college student.
Most people get by in their lives without talking to anyone. Ever.
We completely understand.
However, when the time comes for attending your first job interview, giving a class presentation or even casually talking in social situations, like we described in the point above, it does not hurt to learn a thing or two about communicating efficiently.
A few tips to help you on your way if communication is a problem for you:
College should be an all-around great experience.
The skills mentioned in this post will allow you to master your academics, form life-long mutually beneficial relationships/friendships and succeed even after college.
Are they any other skills we should have included?
Let us know about those in the comments.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.