College Readiness: Skills for Postsecondary Success

Last updated Nov 16, 2023 
| aplustutoring

It’s nearly the end of the first semester of college. While most of the other freshmen are cramming for finals, regretting too many late night parties, eating nothing but cereal, wearing the same pair of jeans three days in a row, and stressing about how to find time to write a 2000 word research paper between shifts at a part-time job, your meticulously curated calendar and good judgment left you with time to balance studying with work and a social life. It wasn’t easy and you messed up a few times, but you learned from your mistakes. 

Parents and their future college students need to nurture the skills now that will make the transition to college a smooth one. College readiness goes beyond academic skills acquired from earning an impressive GPA from a rigorous course schedule to include skills that will help students adjust to the challenges of college and ultimately find success after graduation. Future college students should be able to:

  • Set goals. Students who excel in college know how to stay motivated by setting realistic goals and crafting an action plan that prioritizes related tasks, skills that will not only benefit them in college but will also make a positive impression on future employers. To prepare students for the responsibilities that come with independence, set aside a time to talk about what your teen’s goals are for college and model goal-setting in your own life.
  • Be critical thinkers. College is a time when young people are confronted with a myriad of choices from whether to go out or study to selecting a major. College level classes also, of course, require higher level thinking skills; for example, evaluating the credibility of sources and generating creative solutions to complex problems. Develop critical thinking skills in high school by asking questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”, exploring different perspectives on a topic or issue, modeling decision-making and problem-solving, and using failures as an opportunity to reflect rather than reprimand. 
  • Practice self-advocacy. The independence and freedom associated with college comes with more personal responsibility, including the responsibility to be assertive about a student’s needs. Successful self-advocates identify their needs and know how to contact the people and services best equipped to address those needs. Before heading off to school, parents should recognize opportunities for their teens to practice self-advocacy, such as emailing a teacher about an assignment or a counselor about an IEP, and make sure they have the vocabulary and documentation they will need to secure accommodations.
  • Communicate effectively. From emailing a professor about an assignment to impressing a prospective employer in an interview, the ability to communicate verbally and in writing is essential to college readiness. Assess communication strengths and weaknesses. If, for example, speaking up in groups is difficult, consider joining a club that will provide opportunities to practice public speaking in a low stress environment. Writing clearly and concisely with appropriate vocabulary and good grammar is also a must in college. Most writing skills are incorporated into a student’s  high school curriculum, but any gaps can be filled by having teens practice writing emails to teachers, making their own appointments, and modeling good communication at home. 
  • Collaborate with others. Resolving conflicts with roommates, delegating responsibilities for a group project, and meeting people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds are all opportunities for collaboration in college. Effective collaborators are active listeners who consider different points of view; they delegate tasks and demonstrate personal responsibility. Collaboration can be practiced any time, so seek out experiences in high school that involve collaboration, such as teams or clubs, and expose students to people and places outside their comfort zone.
  • Manage their time. Parents and teachers provide structure for teens during high school, so college will be one of the first times most students will have no one to intervene or nag them if they stay out too late or forget to study for an exam until the night before. Students need good routines and a time management system that balances structure for high priority tasks (e.g. classes, activities, internships/jobs) and enough flex time for having fun and accommodating the unexpected. Students can start learning how to manage their time in high school by using digital or paper time management tools (e.g. planner apps, calendars, and daily to-do lists) to keep track of assignments, college application due dates, extracurricular activities, appointments, and social events.
  • Take care of the practical stuff. One of the aspects of college life that many students find surprisingly hard to adapt to is the number of practical tasks that are now their responsibility and their responsibility alone: managing their health and finances, cleaning their space and doing laundry, cooking and eating a healthy diet, grocery shopping and car maintenance. Digital literacy is important, too. Despite growing up with technology, many students don’t know the basics like typing, basic troubleshooting, and organizing files. High school is the perfect time to start making teaching these skills a priority.
  • Be resilient. No matter how many college readiness skills a student masters before matriculating as a freshman, the transition from high school to college is not without its bumps. That’s why it’s so important for students to keep going in the face of setbacks, so that mistakes and failures become opportunities for growth rather than discouragement. Resilience can be nurtured at any time. Identifying role models, teaching positive self-talk, and practicing problem-solving are all ways to help young people develop the grit they need to persevere.

How A+ Can Help

Developing skills related to college readiness can make the difference between thriving and a harsh freshman year wake up call. At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our Executive Function Coaching program supports students as they work toward personalized goals related to time management, organization, and even life skills. We also offer College Admissions Coaching services that connect students with experienced coaches who not only have insider knowledge of how to gain admission into the most selective institutions, but who also believe the college admission process should be a time of personal reflection, growth, and maturation. So, as you strive to achieve academically, consider the benefits of adding new tools to your toolbox that will serve you well in college.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, we can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at


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