In Academically Adrift, sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa respond to the question, "How much do students actually learn while they are in college?" Their findings are disheartening, as they find that for a large proportion of students, American higher education is characterized by limited or no learning. However, this does not have to be the case. College provides abundant opportunities to grow both academically and socially. For many, college is the first time they branch out on their own, away from family and familiar faces. In college, students can develop the skills that they will carry with them through their lifetime. Here are six life skills that you will want to practice and perfect in college:
- Develop your writing skills. Whether you’re crafting a 140-character tweet or writing a cogent essay, writing is one of those skills you never stop using. It’s not only researchers or writers who need these skills. Whatever field you pursue, clear, coherent writing skills are a guaranteed plus. Stand-out writing skills can open the door to other opportunities. For instance, a doctor might blog about heath care reform or heart disease, and an insurance agent might offer readers tips and tricks. As you develop your writing skills, you will learn how to organize your thoughts, pay attention to detail, and build critical thinking skills.
- Build your communication skills. In the classroom, the workforce, and social settings alike, communication skills are essential. This involves listening effectively, asking succinct questions, presenting solutions, and demonstrating understanding. In college, paying attention and taking notes during class lectures exercises these skills. Discussion sections will build in-person communication skills; students should be able to communicate new ideas effectively. Active participation is key. Down the road, strong communication skills demonstrate to employers that you can build and maintain relationships with others.
- "Work hard, play hard." Essentially, this mantra emphasizes balance and time management. College is about both academic and social development, and every college student needs to find a happy, healthy medium that works for them. To take full advantage of the college experience, students will have to juggle sleep, classes, studying, extracurricular activities, and a social calendar. At some point, you may feel overwhelmed. But developing a strong work ethic now will pay off when you have to balance your career and your personal life later.
- Master the art of persuasion. Students who want to pursue sales or public relations will rely on persuasive skills regularly, but they should not be the only ones who develop this talent. Every college student needs to learn how convince others of their ideas. Learning this skill can improve the way you relate to other people, and you will gain a better understanding of how others relate to you. Students can practice this skill during a heated discussion with a friend or during a class presentation. Persuasive individuals know how to establish credibility, present research, and tailor their arguments to their listeners.
- Work with a team. Every student encounters an array of personalities throughout college. These meetings provide opportunities to build communication and decision-making skills. You may have to learn these skills while working on a group project, writing for your school’s newspaper, or organizing a conference on campus. A successful team incorporates the input of all group members, capitalizes on diverse skills sets, and maintains productivity. Often, teamwork involves compromise, and all of these skills are crucial in the workforce.
- Manage your stress. Despite even their most valiant efforts to manage time and avoid procrastination, people encounter stressful situations. It’s a part of life that most college students know all too well. However, stress can be beneficial when it encourages you to focus. When you have four essays due within 48 hours, take the opportunity to prioritize and set realistic goals. Pick something concrete to work toward. Eating healthy and exercising are also effective ways to manage stress. Learning how to cope with stress now will help you deal with the curveballs that fly your way in the future.
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