Academic success skills are techniques and actions that allow you to perform at the level of your academic ability. Successful students develop effective study skills such as note-taking and reading for understanding. These students think critically and excel at preparing for and taking exams. Successful students utilize resources ranging from teachers and advisors to academic success centers. These students actively engage in their education and participate in learning communities and study groups. They also participate in experiential education opportunities and develop portfolios to showcase their accomplishments.
Leadership often is equated to influence (Maxwell, 2007). Leaders have the influence to move people toward a common goal. The greater your leadership ability, the greater your ability to leverage the skills and abilities of others. Leaders can accomplish more through the people they lead than they can by themselves. You must develop your leadership skills if you want to influence others and truly make a difference in your family, school, community, workplace, and world. You will discover that leadership is not dependent on your title, and you may be in a leadership role now.
I define soft skills as “a collection of abilities, behaviors, and attitudes that increase your effectiveness.” Soft skills differ from, but are complementary to, technical (or hard) skills. Successful engineers must certainly possess the knowledge and technical skills of engineering. Successful engineers must also demonstrate soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, and professionalism and be able to work effectively with clients and coworkers.
Soft skills are not tied to any career or discipline and are sometimes called “transferable skills.” Students who develop their soft skills can enhance their academic performance and transfer the skills to their future career.
Common examples of soft skills include:
Noted leadership expert John Maxwell states that “leadership ability determines effectiveness” (Maxwell, 2007). In other words, the greater your leadership ability, the greater your potential to influence others and achieve success. Further, a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2017) showed that 80 percent of employers look for evidence of leadership skills when evaluating potential employees.
Employers also place a high value on soft skills. CareerBuilder surveyed two thousand human resources specialists and found that 77 percent ranked soft skills as important as hard skills (CareerBuilder, 2014). Despite the importance of soft skills, employers commonly report them as lacking in new hires. Adecco Staffing surveyed five hundred senior executives and found that 92 percent reported skills deficits in new hires, and 44 percent reported a lack of soft skills (Adecco Staffing, 2013).
Academic success skills are important for academic performance and timely graduation. According to the US Department of Education (US Department of Education, 2015a), less than 40 percent of students who enroll in a public, four-year institution actually graduate in four years. The percentage increases to about 50 percent after five years and to about 60 percent after six years.
Students who graduate with their “four-year” degree in five or six years do so at great expense. The average annual cost of a public, four-year college in the US is about $18,000 (US Department of Education, 2015b). The average starting salary of a college graduate is about $50,000 (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2016). Thus, a student who takes an extra year to graduate essentially loses $68,000 ($18,000 in tuition costs and $50,000 in lost income). The amount doubles to a $136,000 loss for students who take an extra two years.
Although many factors influence academic performance, many students can improve their performance and achieve a more timely graduation by utilizing academic success skills.
Adecco Staffing. September 30, 2013. Lack of Soft Skills Negatively Impacts Today’s U.S. Workforce. Retrieved May 22, 2017 from Adecco Staffing: http://www.adeccousa.com/about/press/Pages/20130930-lack-of-soft-skills-negatively-impacts-todays-us-workforce.aspx.
CareerBuilder. April 10, 2014. “Overwhelming Majority of Companies Say Soft Skills Are Just as Important as Hard Skills.” Retrieved September 12, 2017 from CareerBuilder.com: http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?sd=4%2f10%2f2014&siteid=cbpr&sc_cmp1=cb_pr817_&id=pr817&ed=12%2f31%2f2014.
Maxwell, J. 2007. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
National Association of Colleges and Employers. November 16, 2016. “Salary Survey: The Early Drivers of Class of 2016 Gains.” Retrieved May 22, 2017 from Naceweb.org: http://www.naceweb.org/job-market/compensation/salary-survey-the-early-drivers-of-class-of-2016-gains/.
National Association of Colleges and Employers. April 3, 2017. “Job Outlook 2016: The Attributes Employers Want to See on New College Graduates’ Resumes.” Retrieved May 22, 2017 from Naceweb.org: http://www.naceweb.org/career-development/trends-and-predictions/job-outlook-2016-attributes-employers-want-to-see-on-new-college-graduates-resumes/.
US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 2015a. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2002 and Spring 2007 through Spring 2015, Graduation Rates component. (Table 326.10. December 2015.)
US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 2015b. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Fall 2000 through Fall 2014, Institutional Characteristics component. (Table 330.10. December 2015.)