Parents Can Encourage ‘Soft Skills’ for College Readiness

By Michele Molnar — December 07, 2012 1 min read
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Parents preparing their children for college focus on the criteria they know colleges care about: their student’s GPA, SAT and/or ACT scores, AP or IB credentials, extracurricular activities. But are families missing a critical component that is far less measurable, though perhaps as important—soft skills?

Noncognitive skills can be as fundamental to success as academic abilities, colleges say, and they report more students are coming up short in this important area.

In Education Week’s “‘Soft Skills’ Pushed as Part of College Readiness,” writer Caralee Adams explores the phenomenon of gaining these vital proficiencies to ensure college success.

Among the necessary skills that students seem to be lacking are:

  • Personal goal-setting
  • Resilience
  • Responsibility and self-regulation
  • Self-advocacy
  • Resourcefulness in problem-solving
  • Self-soothing

Many of these skills are learned as a result of facing obstacles and struggling to overcome them.

“I see parents and teachers jumping through hoops for kids, but I wonder if the kids are working as hard,” one high school counselor explained.

Some experts place blame for this apparent lack on the shoulders of so-called “helicopter parents,” who spend more time hovering, rescuing and repairing for their teens than the teens do to move forward on their own behalf.

David Conley, a professor of education policy and leadership at the University of Oregon, in Eugene, favors assigning more complex and long-range projects involving teamwork to develop students’ skills in this area.

He goes so far as to suggest adding a set of grades to reflect high school students’ mastery of the behaviors that they need to learn.

What do you think? Should there be an SSPA (Soft Skills Point Average) added to the other measurements of high school students’ abilities?

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.