As college funding professionals we are accustomed to sometimes being viewed strictly as experts in the financial bottom line of paying for college. That tends to go with the territory, although we will be the first to admit that we have a lot more to offer than just that (extremely important!) element of the process! One of the major challenges we have noted in recent years is related to the skills needed by students in order to excel both during college preparation, and once that student steps foot onto a college or university campus. Parents and students need to be aware of what is awaiting them at the next level, and honestly look ahead to what will be required to make it a successful experience. Far too many young people these days seem to embark on their college journey without bothering to do so, and the results can be extremely disappointing and disheartening.
We have seen that both parents and high school students can do plenty in the high school years to start to develop skills that will make their adjustment into higher education seamless and enjoyable. The simple fact is that the skills required to succeed in college will also pay great dividends in high school, if a student can start to develop them early, and they will be every bit as valuable after the degree is earned and a career is being built.
That reality might make these tips seem a bit like common sense, but there is a growing body of evidence on college campuses nation wide that this sort of skill set is becoming less and less common as time goes one – so we are extremely pleased to suggest these tips that can truly assist any student at any stage of his or her training in becoming the very best student (and citizen) that they can be.
For this newsletter, we have selected five of the most important skills that we have personally seen help college students (and their coming successors in high school) to make the most of their academic – and professional – careers. If any of them are already strengths, then fantastic! It could be worth helping a friend or sibling to develop similar skills. If any are areas that are in need of improvement, then it is not to late to get started and implement measures to develop those skills before college actually kicks off! Let’s review…
1. Time Management
The structure that most students experience in high school will most likely be remarkably different in college. The expectations in college are usually very clear, but the responsibility to complete those expectations lies entirely with the student. Students need to prioritize and manage their time on their own, and complete tasks as they are given by their professors. This means that students must learn to be self-sufficient. Mom and Dad will usually no longer be around to check and see if tasks are done or if homework is completed.
Being self-sufficient and self-directed is a valuable skill to have well beyond college. Taking responsibility for one’s time and seeing tasks through to completion is something employers will appreciate greatly. These important capabilities will be very useful in the workplace and in nearly every facet of one’s life.
2. Money Management
College is expensive. Everyone seems to know that. And, there’s the nickname ‘starving student’ for a reason. Most students don’t have a lot of extra money to spend (or even worse, will spend money that they do not have)! Creating and sticking to a budget is really important while in college. It is also a skill that will last a lifetime. If one thinks of budgeting as another means of planning, it can take the restrictive feeling out of it. Planning provides structure, but it also provides freedom. It’s clear where things stand and what needs to be done from month to month.
The student should be in control of the money and budget and not the other way around. Being in control of money brings peace of mind and fosters discipline that will be use well beyond college. Not having enough money to pay bills is extremely stressful. When a budget is in place, then it is clear from the beginning how much money is there and how much is needed to pay the bills. Spending money mindlessly without a thought to a budget will put a student in serious peril and will set up habits that will be deleterious for his or her future.
This may come as no surprise to anyone, but the self-motivated students are the ones who perform the best in college. This skill may have to be learned quickly if the student was one who was prodded and cajoled in high school to get things accomplished. The freedom that comes from living on one’s own and having a responsibility only to one’s self is a double-edged sword. Everyone loves freedom, but freedom does not absolve one of obligations.
Ignored credit card bills, late assignments, missed exams will hurt no one but the student while in college. Paying timely attention to responsibilities gives one the freedom to accomplish the other important things in life and in school. To help with this, it is extremely important to find the motivation within one’s self to find the purpose and meaning in the experience of college. This may come more quickly to some than others, but finding the ‘why’ one is getting an education can be helpful in finding the motivation needed to self-direct and get things done in a responsible way.
4. Communication and Interpersonal Skills
Unless one is independently wealthy and has the means to simply go off and live on an island alone, most of us have to be around other people. For serious introverts, this may be a struggle. For the rest of folks, this can be not only good and bad, but a necessity. Getting along with others and cultivating healthy relationships is something that will serve one well in college but also in the business world.
These skills are being routinely tossed to the wayside in this age of digitalization. With Twitter, Facebook, Instragram and the hundreds of other social media platforms that will come forth, we are losing the ability to communicate meaningfully with one another. It is an art form that is quickly being lost in droves. Being able to communicate effectively is not only a way of showing respect, but it helps the other person feel more at ease and comfortable.
Some of these seemingly common sense skills such as maintaining eye contact, listening actively, and pausing to ask questions are critical when establishing a relationship academically, in the workplace, and personally.
This is closely linked to communication and interpersonal skills. “Playing nicely” is not something that should solely be relegated to the sandbox in the kindergarten. It is a skill that should be nurtured and cultivated early and throughout life. This is not to say that opinions should be suppressed and ideas squelched in order to ‘keep the peace.’ It’s a climate of respect that should be maintained in all interactions so misunderstandings are kept to a minimum and people feel comfortable expressing themselves.
Nearly every field will require one to work with someone else. Learning to be able to do that in respectful and collaborative way will make things run more smoothly and will allow for an environment of calm. This should be useful when trying to work together to reach goals.
It is usually no surprise to anyone that higher education application services and financial solutions are the base of what we do every day as college funding professionals. Because of this, we are able to see these types of skills and talents develop over time, both in the years before college, and during the higher education experience. It also allows us to utilize the same types of abilities in helping the parents of college (and college-bound) students in finding the most appropriate and beneficial strategies for individual financial situations. We take this work very seriously as well as our responsibilities in assisting with the academic futures of the next generation of college graduates.
The overall journey tends to function best, quite honestly, when both parents and their students are thinking and planning ahead with goals in mind. We can help to provide understandable guidelines that will pave the way to a student’s college and university years… but there is no question that it is a team effort. We can offer plenty of know-how to aid families in their successful completion of this quite daunting exercise, too, aside from our direct, hands-on assistance.
Among the most appreciated educational programs we have for the parents of high school students who are looking at college is found at our in-person College Funding Workshops. These group presentations include details from college funding professionals with outstanding experience and first-hand, up-to-date information. These workshops are planned regularly as a resource for parents who want more information about the most important elements regarding the financial requirements – and the ramifications – when it comes to managing their child’s future in higher education.
These workshops are always live, and they are offered without charging any admission fees – equally as important, we plan them for times that make sense for most busy parents with a variety of evening and weekend opportunities. Although we do not have any cost for entrance to these limited-capacity events, experience has shown us that we must limit such events to a group number that meets our space limits and is conducive to an excellent learning experience. Because of this we do require advance reservations for admission.
For additional information about impending College Funding Workshops in your area, please contact our attentive and knowledgeable workshop team at 818.839.6600. They will be more than happy to fill you in on all the latest details regarding workshop locations, meeting times, and individual questions you might have about the workshops and how they are organized. Of course, they are also able to assist with reservations for any our future workshops being presented around your area. If you already have decided to come and wish to make a reservation, they can help you further.
Another great resource for information about college funding and preparation can be found with our published report that covers the vital details surrounding higher education costs and how to manage them. This written report was prepared specifically with an eye toward the parents of college-bound high school kids, and it is an excellent introduction to the most pressing issues in college funding. The report is called “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” and it receives great reviews from parents each and every time we release it.
Feel free to call me or contact me if you have any questions…