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Skills Every Student Needs to Be Successful in College

They taught you about math and grammar, but teachers don't always teach all the skills every student needs to be successful in college. Here are some you may have missed out on during high school.

Before we begin this article, I'd like to start out with some information about myself. College was not kind to me — at all. In fact, I'll be honest and say that I was grossly unprepared for it. For those who know me, this might come as a surprise; I was taking college courses before I was even old enough to drive. 

The truth is that our school system doesn't really do much to prepare us for adulthood. Sure, we might learn English, math, science, and history, but that's not enough — and heck, a lot of us still didn't learn that after graduating high school.

College dropout rates are high, and for those who don't graduate, that can mean a lot of debt and a lot of shame. In some cases, college can end up burning you out before you even hit the workforce.

People don't really think about the soft skills you need to succeed on your own, and that's pretty bad considering that college students are basically expected to be full adults when they enroll. Only months before, everyone treated them like they were kids, and that's a culture shock!

Before you go to your first university course, you need to consider the other non-academic skills every student needs to be successful in college. 

Accepting Failure

There is this really toxic mindset that many parents and schools press onto kids that tells them that failure is not an option. This sounds motivational, until you realize that this often will put a lot of undue pressure on people to not fail at any cost.

The thing is that failure is a part of life, and so is rejection. If you can't accept failure or throw tantrums when someone criticizes you, you're lacking one of the most basic skills every student needs to be successful in college.

College is a time to make mistakes. If you don't make mistakes and learn to pick yourself up, college can and will mess you up emotionally. You'll panic, you'll freak out, and in many cases, you may end up quitting when you really shouldn't quit.

A lot of people in college are anxious, angry, or even hateful balls of stress because they weren't allowed to learn how to cope with failure or hardship. Don't be one of those people.

Being Assertive

As bad as it may be to hear for some folks, high school doesn't always end in college. There will be bullies, and you may end up finding yourself being the "loner" in college, too. This happened to me.

Back then, I wasn't assertive. At all. I'd hang out with people who would call me a "slut," talk about me behind my back, and regularly humiliate me because it was either that or being solo.

To make things worse, a lot of people were pressuring me into a career I did not want. And, wanting to please people who should have been happy to just have me being happy doing my own thing, I went along with it.

At the end of my college time, I loathed the subjects I studied to the point that I still have a mental block against it today. I also had to do years of soul-searching to see that I should have fought back against all the bullshit I went through — and that I probably should have gone to another university that was more in-line with my desire to be free.

Looking back, I realized I could have had a lot easier a time if I was assertive with people.

Sadly, this is one of the skills every student needs to be successful in college that's often stomped out by overbearing parents, high school teachers constantly giving bad advice, and negative peer pressure.


Social skills are skills every student needs to be successful in college — or life, really. There's a reason that people who were popular in high school tend to fare better in life than those who were bullied; they learned social skills early, and were able to build a network earlier.

If you don't know how to talk to people, you will have a bad time in college and an even worse time in the workforce. You need to communicate well with team mates, know how to bond with people different from you, and also learn to handle tough people.

Reading up on communication can help, as can therapy, if you have low self-esteem or anxiety. However, the best thing you can do is just get out there and talk to as many people as possible. 

Time Management

Yes, time management is crucial. You will be torn between going to a frat party and finishing your essay. Better time management skills will let you figure out how to fit both in your schedule, while also having enough time to sleep. 


One of the most insane trends professors have noticed is how many college enrollees no longer know how to function without their parents. These kids don't know how to hold a job, pack their own lunch, do their own laundry, or even talk to professors without their parents' help.

I firmly believe that learning to function with minimal to no parental help is one of the most important skills every student needs to have to be successful in college.

Being glued to your parents will stifle your ability to learn about yourself, the world around you, and about what you want in life. Moreover, being codependent to your parents will also make it really hard for you to function once you graduate — or ever, really.

You can't let mommy and daddy control every portion of your life in college. This is a pain point where you may need to get assertive with your parents, or start hatching an escape plan. 


In the "real world," it's often not what you know, but who you know. College is a prime networking ground, so it makes sense for you to work to branch out with others.

If you learn to network professionally and socially, you may make some important connections in your life. The reason why Greek systems are so popular in colleges is because they are a legitimate networking tool for many people.

Obviously, part of networking is knowing how to make a good impression, be sociable, and behave appropriately. If you aren't sure if you've mastered that, you may need to wait before you go to college.

Nothing's wrong with taking a gap year to get your stuff sorted out. Part of learning skills every student needs to be successful in college is learning when you're actually ready to go. 

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