The 5 Key Skills for Success Your High Schooler Needs Now

I recently attended a symposium that was conducted by the IECA entitled “Future Trends in College Admissions”.  The first hour of the panel consisted of questions posed to Deans of Enrollment and Admissions at some of the top private west coast colleges on all subjects from rising tuition to the new coalition application.  What was interesting, was that no matter what the topic or question, each and every panelist continued to emphasize their concern about two main topics: 

1.  The increasing amount of anxiety and stress surrounding college preparation and the application process

2.  The importance of college readiness in achieving success in college and post-college

And, when they described college readiness, not one of them talked about technical skills (with the exception of strong writing), but instead focused on the student being able to possess the following key skills:  the ability to make decisions, navigate challenges on their own, resolve conflict, and ability to grow and gain self-awareness! 

Hearing this made me fired up and even MORE resolved to do what I do and HOW I do it!   And I’m not alone!

Julie Lythcott-Haims talks about this in her book “How To Raise An Adult” and on her website,  when she makes observations about self-awareness like:  “Teens and young adults can speak of what they've accomplished, but not about who they are".    

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about the technical aspects of college planning like preparing ahead,  making a plan and starting early to figure out what colleges may be a good fit.  It is just SO much more productive and effective – both in the short term AND long term – when it is done from the well-rounded perspective of integrating the technical skills that need to be done with the "soft skills" that are needed to prepare young adults for college AND workplace readiness.

So what can we do about it?  How can we help our children learn and grow from their experiences and develop the skills and tools that will help them in college, in the workplace and in life? How can we do this while also minimizing the overwhelm and stress associated with college preparation?

From a coach-centric perspective, the first step is the awareness.  The second step is continuing to promote that awareness. These are huge issues, ones that myself and others have written about and will continue to do so.

My focus today is on the importance of “soft skills.  Now that we are aware that there is a need to learn and practice these “soft skills” earlier and often, and the importance of mastering these for college and especially in the workplace, this can lead to the outcome we wish to achieve, which is providing our children with the opportunity to build and strengthen that foundation in high school and in planning for college.

I took a representative sampling from career websites, employer websites,  publications like Fast Company and Forbes, as well as Jeffrey Selingo’s latest book “There Is Life After College”.  In almost every case, these were the top 5 skills that came up:

1.     Communication Skills – including the ability to speak up, to ask questions, to be curious and to be open to learning 

2.     Adaptability – including having a flexible mindset, being able to handle “curve balls” and to think on your feet

3.     Creative problem solving – including the ability to analyze a situation and make decisions quickly and without supervision

4.     Conflict management – including the ability to work in teams, to relate to people, to accept and give feedback that is constructive AND to realize failure is part of the learning process

5.     Being detail-oriented - including organization and time management

What does that look like as a parent?  How do we support without rescuing? In contrast to the “helicopter parent” described in “How To Raise An Adult”, one of the Deans of Enrollment suggested the model of the “submarine parent”: The submarine parent is one who cruises along, under water, below the surface, at a safe distance away from the student and pops up occasionally to look around, and let the student know that they are there if they need them, BUT lets the student do the work.  This empowers them to take ownership of the process and gain confidence and self-esteem, knowing they can handle things on their own. It’s about taking a step back so they are able to step up and know that they have the skills and tools to do so!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Feel free to write your comments below, or on my Facebook page 

Or better yet, please share this if you agree!!!


Happy Independence Day to all!