Non-Academic Skills Required for College Success

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many high schools and universities to close their campuses and offer courses online. As the learning environment changed from classrooms to Zoom meetings, all students had to take more responsibility for their learning as they studied from home. The shifts that we’ve all endured made it especially clear that students need more than just academic skillsets to be successful in life and college.

One unexpected development of the pandemic is the accompanying rise of online learning. Online learning allows greater flexibility and accessibility to students who want to work part-time jobs and avoid long commutes to campus. A 2021 report from the NC-SARA stated that 60% of university professors plan to continue teaching online or partially online even after the pandemic clears. So what does this mean for students? 

It means that students can expect a variety of learning environments, including face-to-face, online, and hybrid. 

Nonacademic skills such as time management, communicative skills, and self-regulation are key to college and career success, whether students are learning online or in-person.

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Everyone knows that you can’t just do whatever you want, whenever you want. You should think about your goals and do what is best for you, even if it isn’t fun. Self-regulation involves choosing what makes you happy and doing what you want, as long as it is okay with you.

In college, self-regulation is a vital skill. As a student, you have to regulate yourself socially and emotionally to make sure you stay on track and keep up with your assignments. This means saying “no” to friends when they ask you to go out partying the night before an exam. It also means getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, and reflecting on one’s own behavior. Students can practice self-regulation by writing down short- and long-term goals and asking yourself which of your behaviors are beneficial or harmful to those goals. 

Time Management

The ability to prioritize tasks to balance your work, school, and social lives is essential to school success. To help pay for their degrees, many students work part-time jobs, which can quickly fill up their schedules. Universities also offer students plenty of opportunities to participate in clubs and generally get involved on campus. School clubs and part-time jobs are great experiences for college students, but this means students need to carefully manage their time to avoid stressful (and often unproductive) cramming the night before an exam. Maintaining a calendar with important deadlines, meetings, and work shifts can help students manage their time. Students can also plan their weeks in advance, designating study hours and listing tasks to be completed. Additionally, students can use time management apps, such as myHomework Student Planner, Trello, and Evernote

Growth Mindset 

With a growth mindset, hard work, and a focus on learning, students can accomplish anything. This is especially important when completing tasks that are not central to their interests. For example, many programs require students to complete general education courses, such as English composition, mathematics, and natural sciences, before starting their specific program. So, a student interested in pursuing a psychology degree might be disappointed to learn that they have to pass college algebra before taking any psychology courses. Rather than giving up and telling themselves, they’ll never pass algebra, a student with a growth mindset recognizes that, if they dedicate the time to study and work hard, they will successfully pass these general education requirements. Having a growth mindset is incredibly rewarding, and growth-minded students will learn that they are capable of anything—if they are willing to work hard. 


Every college student needs good communication skills to succeed. The majority of college professors assign grades for active classroom participation, so simply showing up and completing the work won’t cut it. Professors want students to engage, ask questions, and share their thoughts. However, not all communication is good communication. Random questions that don’t relate to the topic of study aren’t helpful, and if you’re not listening, you might ask questions that have already been answered. Strong communicative skills require both speaking and listening. Students who listen carefully and use good judgment before speaking will be able to contribute to discussions that benefit the entire class. It’s also important to communicate well outside of the classroom by emailing your professor if you will miss a class or need to leave early or show up late. 

Skills That Benefit Students Beyond University

Academic skills are obviously necessary for success in college, but they can’t stand on their own. Self-regulation, time management, a growth mindset, and communicative skills are some of the most important non-academic skills young people need to develop. These skills will prepare students to achieve their highest potential. 

Schools aren’t the only institutions embracing the online platform, employers are also increasingly allowing employees to work from home. These non-academic skills will continue to benefit students after they graduate and enter the workforce. Good communication will help students during job interviews, self-regulation and time management skills will make working from home more effective, and a growth mindset will help employees move into more advanced positions in their company.  

College admissions can be stressful. Luckily, you have our team, at HelloCollege to help provide you with all the necessary tools to ensure you are prepared for the process every step of the way, from application to acceptance! 

Check out our related blogs or contact us for College Admissions Help.

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The Hello College Team

HelloCollege CEO Andrea Emmons has spent the last 15 years guiding students and families across the country on their path to college. Andrea knows the profound impact proactive college planning has on the lives of students and is passionate about mentoring families through the process.
Kevin Krebs - Founder of HelloCollege

About Our Founder

Kevin Krebs

Inspired by his parents, Kevin’s journey from a first-gen, diverse, low-income background to Northwestern University shaped him. After experiencing challenges, including student loan debt, he founded HelloCollege and has spent the last 25 years helping students successfully navigate college admissions.

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