While you spend four years at college ostensibly to learn academic subjects and be prepared for the next phase of life (whether it’s entering the working world or continuing to grad school), utilizing and developing non-cognitive skills is just as important. You will be faced with new tasks that previously may have been done for you (think: laundry).  Or if you’re at a big school, you may have to learn to advocate for yourself among the thousands of other undergraduates with you. Now, you will need to fend for yourself, finding food, friends, and faculty…how’s that for alliteration?  The good news is that you’ve probably been working on these skills without even realizing it.  And the even better news is that we offer a training workshop to assist you, if you feel like you need an added boost.

As a graduate of a large state school coming from a small suburban high school, I can tell you that you’ll need to learn time management skills, which involve so much more than just that:  you’ll need to develop self-control and discipline, and perhaps need to overcome obstacles like shyness or aversion to speaking with authority. You’ll begin asking yourself questions like, do I really want to watch the Super Bowl in the dorm lounge or should I study for that Spanish exam? This is no small decision to make.

Let me give you an example of a predicament I faced in college.  I was unsure of my major.  Let’s just say that I started out pre-med taking psychobiology, biology, and Calculus 2 my first semester, and well, here I am now with a Master’s in Education and an Instructor of English Teaching Certificate.  At the beginning of my second year of college, I had to decide what I was going to major in since I needed to start fulfilling prerequisites and applying to programs if I was going a 5-year master’s degree route.  I remember being in the basement of the HUGE English department, a brand new building which smelled like coffee and construction, and having to knock on a slightly cracked open door to see my faculty advisor, whom I had never met before.  I was scared, but possessed the self-awareness to recognize I was a bit intimidated. I then realized I knew how to communicate with such authority figures. In one large lecture hall with about 250 students, I raised my short little arm, said “excuse me,” and challenged a professor with a statistic I had read, demonstrating my resourcefulness. Somehow that was easier, being anonymous, rather than face-to-face with an expert in the field.  At our school, we were encouraged to call our professors by their first names, which was also something new for me.  So I had to have an open mind and dive into this new way of communicating and looking at “authority”.  Professors at my school liked to go by their first names with the notion that they–and we, in turn–are never done learning, that we are all intellectually curious. But because I was so used to “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Jones” that this new way of approaching instructors required that I gain some grit.  So I met with “Betsy,” a Ph.D. in English, and had a nice informal conversation with her.  She told me about challenges she faced in college as well, and gave me a new perspective.  No longer was I filled with dread, but rather with confidence that I could navigate through the windy halls of the building and find courses, and eventually the major, I’d like.

As you may have noticed, I placed a bunch of terms in this blog in bold. This is to highlight so many of the non-cognitive muscles I was discovering I had and then began exercising.  Sure, you might get sore from trying a new one out, but then it will become stronger.  Once intimidated by individual professors, I now give presentations in front of dozens (sometimes hundreds) of members of an audience.  I fail spectacularly and realize that I am just like my professors:  Stefanie (not Ms. Toye) who loves questioning author’s diction, protesting against university budget cuts (yes, I walked in such a demonstration in college), and trying out unknown talents like African drumming.  I highly encourage you to try set goals for solid grades, and also to stay up late having debates with your friends to develop interpersonal relationships, attend meals and coffee with faculty, and knock on your professors’ slightly cracked open doors.  You’d be surprised what they have to offer you.  More importantly, you’ll be surprised what you have to offer them.

Please call our offices if you’d like to sign up for a college transition workshop. We are offering them at the end of the school year in 2017, closer to college, as follows:  May 4th (Thursday) 6-8pm in Bernardsville and June 4th (Sunday) 4-6pm in Fanwood. In case you’re curious as to what more of these skills look like, check out the list below:

  • executive function
  • grit
  • growth mindset (not fixed)
  • confidence academically
  • determination
  • commitment to college
  • goal striving
  • inner strengths
  • interpersonal relationships
  • resourcefulness
  • study skills
  • communication skills
  • open-minded
  • truth seeking
  • self-awareness
  • stress reduction
  • general coping
  • decision making
  • self-expression
  • self-perception
  • task planning
  • ability to take control
  • time management
  • self-control
  • involvement in activities
  • faculty relationships
  • listening
  • note taking