Why It Matters: Success Skills

What does it take to succeed in college?

In this module, we will examine why students choose to embark on the adventure of college, how different people define success (in and out of college), the kinds of skills and work that are required in college, and the many factors that contribute to success in college.

It’s also important to recognize, though, that some students do not succeed in college; they drop out within the first year. Sometimes this is due to financial problems or a personal or family crisis. But too frequently, students drop out because they’re having trouble passing their courses.

We often hear students say, “I just can’t do it!” or “I’m not good at math,” or “I guess college isn’t for me…,” or “I’m not smart enough.” These explanations for success or failure are rarely accurate. Considerable research into college success reveals that intellect usually has nothing to do with having difficulty in or failing college courses.

This section will explore the specific strategies you can use to improve your learning and the sometimes weird culture of higher education that you need to master in order to succeed. The good news about behaviors that help us succeed in college is that:

    • These skills can be learned, and improved upon. Just because we’re not great at something like time management now, doesn’t mean we can’t get better at it. The more we practice, the better we get (and the more it becomes second nature).
    • These skills are transferable. Patterns of behavior that help us pass difficult classes also help us succeed in other areas of our lives, including the workplace, and in our relationships with people, including friends and family.

Watch It

Consider this short video from Richard St. John, who spent years interviewing people who reached the top of their fields, across a wide range of careers. He traces the core behaviors that were common to all of these successful people, and distills them down into 8 key traits.

Click here to download a transcript for this video

As mentioned in the video, eight traits found to aid successful leaders are passion, hard work, practice, pushing through tough times, serving others, having ideas, being focused, and staying persistent. All of these are things that you can put into practice immediately. With them, you’ll see improvement in your school successes and beyond.

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