The “hidden” degree requirements

Some of the most important things you will learn at college will never show on your college transcript. These are aspects of affective (versus cognitive) development. They are what employers are expecting to find in college graduates, quite apart from the subject matter of their degree studies, or professional training. Solid affective skill development is key – without it, the chances of graduating are slim!

There is no “curriculum for developing the affective capabilities you will need, and acquire during your college years. But you can control, to a certain extent, how painful the process of acquisition may be. One useful thing to remember is to “expect the unexpected.” Resilience is the quality of being able to take things in stride and handle the rough patches well. It helps to “be prepared” by knowing in advance that statistically some things will not go smoothly. It helps even more to learn to anticipate obstacles and have a Plan B in place when you aren’t certain of Plan A’s chances of success.

As a new college student, what affective skills will you need?

You will mostly discover the need for certain essential affective skills when the lack of them “jumps up and bites you!” Life experience teaches us much. But perhaps a checklist of some valuable skills may be of value to a student who wants to “be prepared” and is willing to think ahead to help smooth their way.

Here are some affective skills you will need in order to graduate:

  • Ability to prioritize
  • Ability to solve problems without having a parent run interference for you (think room-mate problems)
  • The inner strength to stand up to many demands, pressures and challenges all at once
  • Resilience – being able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off after a disappointment or crisis
  • Organizational capability – to buy your books on time, keep track of assignments and deadlines, exam dates, times and venues
  • Confidence – to reach out for support from peers or professors
  • Proactiveness – signing up early for limited options; finding out about good opportunities
  • A personal conscience that kicks in when you are missing too many classes or getting too little sleep
  • Being able and willing to defend your opinions, in class and in your social setting
  • The strength of character to be able to change your opinions if circumstances or the arguments of others lead you to a new outlook
  • The ability to brainstorm on your own – you can’t rely on the good students always sharing their bright ideas with a group. Coming up with your own original thoughts is rare, even in graduating college seniors

I just arrived at college – now what?

One of the key affective skills it will pay you to learn is “how to make friends.” Be prepared to go outside your comfort zone, especially in these first important weeks of your first semester at college. Even if you’re shy, commit yourself to striking up a real conversation with at least two strangers each day. Not trivial chit-chat – be prepared to talk about your opinions, what you are missing about home, what you are finding quite surprising about your first experiences on the campus. Ask questions, all the time!! You have no idea how important an affective skill it is to be able to speak up and ask for the information you need or simply to engage another person.

Affective learning in college begins as soon as you arrive. But one more thing – good judgment is possibly the most important affective skill you will need. It may not be perfect yet – but don’t leave home without it.

Gail Lewis,
College Admissions Consultant with College Goals

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