When you think about succeeding in high school, your mind probably jumps to your GPA or your SAT/ACT score. While these measures of performance are important, there are also several “softer skills” that you need to develop as a student.
These skills are just as important as your academic performance, but unfortunately, they aren’t explicitly taught in school. Somehow, students are expected to pick them up through osmosis! Master these skills now and not only will you see grades and test scores improve, you’ll be less stressed and have more fun in high school and college. Not only that, you will also be a more desirable candidate to potential employers down the line.
Here are the soft skills you need for high school success:
Get and stay organized. Establish (and stick to) a system for tracking the four essentials of organization—tasks, time, stuff, and energy—to prevent assignments or obligations from falling through the cracks.
Study effectively. Optimize your time with a comprehensive study process that you can repeat over and over. When done well, this process will help you in every subject and with standardized testing.
Take a break from time to time. Whether it’s playing a sport or studying for an exam, your mind and body need regular downtime! When you take a break, make sure it’s actually relaxing (in other words, minimize endless scrolling on social media): try writing in a journal, doing some deep breathing, listening to relaxing music, or staring up at the sky.
Communicate clearly. When you communicate well, the world understands you better. This applies to both written and verbal communication, and will help with everything from college entrance essays to discussing grades with a teacher to running for student council.
Understand yourself as a learner. It’s important to know who you are, and to use that information to make informed choices. What routines do you find beneficial? Do you work better in silence or with music, around people or alone? Is it easy for you to set and keep deadlines, or do you need some outside accountability to help you reach your goals? When you know who you are as a learner, you can act in a way that supports your identity or make a conscious choice to change.
Manage projects with multiple pieces or steps. Later in high school and throughout college and the professional world, nightly homework assignments will give way to larger projects with longer timeframes. Being able to break those projects down into smaller, concrete tasks, and to spread those tasks out over a period of weeks or months, will help you avoid last-minute paper-writing, all-nighter study sessions, and a whole lot of stress and anxiety.
Reflect in order to improve. Reflection is a key tool for learning from our mistakes. When you take the time to pause and reflect (the beginning and end of the semester are great times for this), you have the opportunity to see where you could do better. This leads to continual growth and improvement.
Seek out help when you need it. Nobody is ever successful alone. We all need help from time to time: advice from a friend, support from a tutor, guidance from a mentor. You should never feel bad about saying “I don’t understand” to a teacher. As long as you are willing to put in the effort required to change your situation, you’ll find you are surrounded by people ready to help.
Keep perspective on what really counts. It’s so easy to get sucked into the whirlpool of high school. There will always be competition over grades, rumors about college admissions, and popularity contests—but you can choose to keep your head above water and not engage. Focus on a few strong relationships, some long-term goals, and finding activities that interest and engage you, and we promise that you’ll be much better off in the long run!
You can use this list to take an inventory of your current skill set. Identify one or two skills you’d like to improve and commit to working on them over the next few months.
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