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    10 Soft Skills to Help Your Child Thrive in College

    Posted by Cora Gold

    As teens transition from high school to college, the shift is more than just academic. College life demands a blend of independence, responsibility, and a broad range of interpersonal skills. While academic prowess is critical, soft skills are equally significant in ensuring students thrive in this new environment. 

    Here are 10 essential soft skills to help your young adult navigate college successfully. 

    Communication Skills

    Effective communication is fundamental at all stages of life. Whether participating in class discussions, presenting projects, attending social events, or collaborating with peers, conveying ideas clearly and confidently is crucial. 

    Encourage your child to practice written and verbal communication. They get this practice in school by writing essays and research papers, but they can also participate in debates or even join public speaking clubs. 

    Equally important? Developing active listening skills. Students should learn to listen attentively, ask clarifying questions, and provide feedback. These strategies build better understanding and relationships. 

    Time Management

    College students must get used to juggling multiple responsibilities, including their classes, assignments, extracurricular activities, and social life. Good time management skills enable them to prioritize tasks and manage their schedule effectively. The net result? Less stress and higher productivity. 

    Approximately 80% of students report procrastinating to various degrees, wasting hours each day. Essential strategies for effective time management include: 

    • Learning to set realistic deadlines
    • Breaking down tasks
    • Avoiding procrastination

    Fortunately, plenty of tools, such as planners, calendars, and time management apps, exist to help teens learn accountability. They should also regularly review and adjust their schedules to accommodate new commitments and unforeseen changes.


    The college environment is dynamic and often unpredictable. Students might need to adjust to a new class schedule, cope with a difficult roommate, or accommodate a sudden change in classwork. Adaptability ensures students handle changes and unexpected challenges stress-free and with ease. 

    Encourage your child to embrace change positively and to see it as a learning opportunity. Flexibility in thinking and a willingness to welcome new experiences can also contribute significantly to personal and academic growth.


    College life presents numerous problems—from academic challenges to personal conflicts—that require practical solutions. Many people lack the skill of effective problem-solving, which involves:

    • Identifying the issue
    • Brainstorming potential solutions
    • Evaluating options
    • Implementing the best one

    Teach your teenager to approach problems methodically and view them as growth opportunities. Practical problem-solving involves staying calm under pressure, seeking advice when necessary, and using critical thinking to weigh each solution’s pros and cons. Real-life practice (like handling everyday issues independently) can build confidence and competence in problem-solving.

    Critical Thinking

    People with solid critical thinking skills can analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment based on that data. College students must regularly evaluate complex issues, make evidence-based decisions, and think creatively—both in and out of the classroom. 

    Activities that challenge your teen’s thinking can enhance this skill. Read and discuss diverse viewpoints or watch and talk about a movie with complex themes. Encouraging your child to question assumptions, seek out diverse information, and make time for reflection creates a deeper understanding of subjects and boosts their academic performance. 

    Interpersonal Skills

    Building relationships and working effectively with others requires well-developed interpersonal skills like empathy, listening, and conflict resolution. Encourage your teen to participate in group activities and develop positive interactions with friends and faculty, which can lead to a supportive network. 

    People with well-developed interpersonal skills are respectful, approachable, and open-minded. Role-play different scenarios to teach your child the importance of non-verbal communication, like body language and eye contact, and improve their ability to connect with others. 


    College students must be self-driven to manage their studies and other responsibilities. Self-motivation involves setting goals, maintaining a positive attitude, and pushing through challenges.

    Help your teen set realistic goals and celebrate their achievements to stay motivated. Encouraging them to find intrinsic motivation—a passion for their field of study or personal growth, for example—can lead to sustained effort and enthusiasm. Suggest adopting techniques like visualization, self-affirmation, and maintaining a growth mindset to stay motivated even during challenging times. 


    We say those who bounce back from setbacks and persist through difficulties are resilient. College can be daunting, and students will inevitably face failures or disappointments. Building resilience involves maintaining a positive outlook, learning from mistakes, and not giving up. 

    Teach your teenager to see challenges as opportunities to grow stronger. They should practice stress management techniques, such as mindfulness and exercise, and know when to seek support. These tools will help them cope with adversity. Share your own stories of personal resilience and how you (or others) have overcome obstacles to inspire and motivate them. 


    Like grades K-12, college study groups, class projects, and campus organizations rely on students with good collaboration skills to function effectively. The ability to work well with others, share ideas, delegate tasks, provide constructive feedback, and contribute to team efforts is a valuable skill that carries people well beyond their school careers. 

    Encourage your child to engage in group activities and take on leadership roles to hone their collaborative skills. They might participate in team sports, clubs, or volunteer work. Emphasize the importance of active listening, clear communication, and respecting diverse perspectives within a team.

    Emotional Intelligence

    Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage one’s emotions and empathize with others. A high EQ enables students to navigate social situations, manage stress, and build strong relationships. Some research even suggests that EQ is more important than intellectual intelligence and is often a deciding factor for recruiters hiring new talent. 

    Encourage your teen to practice self-awareness and empathy and seek help when necessary. Developing emotional intelligence includes:

    • Regular self-reflection
    • Understanding triggers and responses
    • Cultivating emotional regulation strategies

    Activities like journaling, mindfulness meditation, and empathic conversations can enhance EQ. Encouraging your child to develop healthy coping mechanisms and seek emotional support when needed can lead to better mental health and interpersonal success. 

    Help Your Young Adult Thrive

    Imagine your child feeling confident and ready for college and life in general. That’s the power these soft skills hold. They help teens grow as people, succeed in school, and prepare to rock the working world. The best part? You can help your child develop these skills by allowing them to try new things and celebrating their efforts.

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    Cora Gold

    Cora Gold

    Cora Gold is a parenting writer and editor of the women’s lifestyle magazine Revivalist. She writes about family activities and positive parenting strategies for publications including CafeMom, Scary Mommy, and The Everymom. Connect with Cora on LinkedIn and X.