Six Skills Your Teen Needs for College Readiness

By Dr. Raymond Huntington

Updated December 12th, 2022

If your teen is headed to college soon, it’s important to make sure they are prepared. College classes are a big step up from high school classes in terms of rigor and expectations, and your teen must have a range of aptitudes and habits to do well. What exactly does it take? Here are six essential skills your teen must have to be successful in college: 

  1. Independence – By high school, teens should be keeping track of homework and upcoming projects and tests all on their own. They should be in tune with their needs in the classroom so they can advocate for themselves. Your support in school remains important in high school but make sure your teen understands that school is their responsibility and that they are taking initiative to complete homework, study and manage all of their responsibilities. 
  2. Time management – The college workload can take many freshmen by surprise, and those who lack a good time management system tend to struggle. Teens must be adept at prioritizing their studying and planning ahead when they have big projects. If your teen doesn’t use the planner faithfully, now is the time to start. 
  3. Adaptability – In college, there are times students get a lot of direction from professors and times they do not. A class project’s scope or timeline might change. It’s important to be able to adjust and pivot when a situation changes, new information is acquired or when faced with uncertainty. Encourage your teen to problem solve and stay calm in high-pressure situations. These skills go hand in hand with adaptability. 
  4. Resourcefulness – College students do a whole lot of research. They are frequently expected to develop written arguments on texts they read and other topics and must be able to supply evidence and support for those interpretations. And outside the classroom, students should be comfortable asking for help and identifying and taking advantage of the different resources available to them. Suggest that your teen do the same as a high school student. 
  5. Study skills – Good academic habits are essential in college, including studying smart, notetaking and planning out the study and homework schedule. Students are expected to be responsible and on top of all of their classes and responsibilities. Make sure your teen nurtures the study habits so that by the time they are in college, they are second nature. 
  6. Critical thinking skills – College professors want students to participate in class and articulate their ideas clearly. They expect that they are able to analyze new information, make connections about that which they learn and draw conclusions. As often as possible, encourage your teen to express opinions and the reasons for them and think through arguments.  

Preparing teens for college: Making up for learning loss 

The skills above are obviously important to cultivate in your student, but the fact remains that students need a solid academic foundation to do well in college. Students who go to college with weak or missing academic or study skills will find it difficult, if not impossible, to succeed.  

Making things even more complex is the fact that we now know for certain that the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a toll on students.  In October 2022, the National Association of Educational Progress released the latest 'Nation's Report Card,' the first following the COVID-19 pandemic. The results showed the lowest level in decades for math and reading scores and the largest drop since the test was first administered. 

A recent study found that with about 50 hours of instruction during the COVID period, Huntington students, on average, achieved a 35% increase in math percentile scores and a 33% increase in reading percentile scores from pre- to post internal evaluations. Also, Huntington students see an average improvement of 2 grade levels in math and reading, 229 points on the SAT and 5.4 points on the ACT. 

As you review the report and assess your student’s progress, Huntington recommends the following: 

  • Do daily check-ins with your student to discuss their workload and the content they are learning about at school. This is an opportunity to help them prioritize their tasks and identify areas for improvement. 
  • Engage your school community to find out what resources are available. 
  • Contact your local Huntington Learning Center for assistance.  

You can read more about the Nation’s Report Card and its latest results, but it’s clear that this news is significant when thinking about students planning to go to college. Math is an essential foundation for careers in mathematics, science and technology. Students who have experienced significant learning loss during the pandemic will find their college and career options in these areas more limited. And the same goes for reading. Left uncorrected, reading struggles will make it harder for students to continue learning more complex and challenging material in many subjects in high school and beyond.  

What should parents of college-bound students do? 

College success requires a combination of academic and other skills like those mentioned above. If you know that your student has been affected by learning loss, it’s important to address these problems as soon as possible. By the time your student starts applying to colleges, you want to ensure that they have recovered from any learning loss and improved their grades to boost their GPA. Huntington can help. Learn more about Huntington’s tutoring services for students of all ages.  

You can also help your student put their best foot forward on college applications by enrolling them in a test prep program with Huntington. Earning a high SAT or ACT score can help your student counterbalance a lower GPA (if the last few years have impacted their learning) and set themselves apart. Strong SAT/ACT scores can open doors for scholarships as well. Learn about our SAT/ACT prep programs, which have helped many students earn admission into top colleges.  

Questions about how to help your student become college ready—and get into the right mindset for success? Call us at 1-800 CAN LEARN today.  

* (This data was for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense schools, Puerto Rico and 26 large urban districts.)