10 Soft Skills for High Schoolers to Develop Before College

04/11/20206 minute read
10 Soft Skills for High Schoolers to Develop Before College

While your grades, application, extracurriculars, and essays are the main components of your college application, there are certain soft skills that admissions officers look for in students. Whether you demonstrate these skills in your activities or essay, it’s important to truly develop these skills before college as they are essential for success. Let’s dive right into it!


The world is ever-changing and so is the education sphere! With COVID-19 making a huge impact on how students learn, interact, and create, it’s evident that education will continue to shift and evolve. Adaptability is an important soft skill that teaches students how to roll with the punches and keep working hard. Not only is this skill important to finish off high school on a strong note, but it’s also important for college! College is a huge transition for students: new location, new living style, new cohabitants, new food, new learning styles, etc.

One trick to learning and practicing adaptability is to limit your expectations and approach new and different scenarios with an open mind.


Collaboration is something that most students begin to learn from an early age. Whether is through team sports, clubs, group projects, or another community activity, collaboration is an important skill to learn. While students may get a soft introduction to this skill early on, it’s important to perfect in high school.

One trick to perfecting collaboration is by switching up your roles in different activities. In order to be a strong collaborator, students must feel comfortable as both a leader and a supporter.


This may seem like a given. We all know how to communicate, right? Well, kind of. We all know how to speak. But it’s often said that effective and strong communication is two parts listening to one part speaking. Active listening is a crucial part of communication; hearing how the other person feels, imagining their background and point of view, and approaching the conversation with patience and empathy.

One trick to mastering strong communication skills is to remember these three things in this particular order: comprehend, retain, respond. It’s often our instinct to respond to someone before taking time to comprehend their words, tone, and intention.


Oftentimes both students and parents associate creativity solely with the arts. However, creativity can be learned through everyday activities and all subjects. Creativity is essential when it comes to learning new material, as well as problem-solving. If students approach every class with the same mindset and tools, they will likely be unsuccessful. This ties back to the adaptability skill. It’s crucial for students to find what works best for them.

One trick to developing creativity is to constantly experiment! Whether it’s how you approach your math equation, break down a reading comprehension question, or study for that history test, take the time to consider and approach each topic in a new way.

Critical Thinking

Arguably one of the most essential skills to have in the 21st century, critical thinking is a skill students should learn to develop as early as possible. With information being abundant and instantaneous, it is crucial for students to be able to discern fact from fiction independently. While this is important for classes such as English and History, this is also important for the social sphere. What should you do if you disagree with a peer?

One trick to developing critical thinking skills is to read the news from different sources. What is the common theme? What is fact versus opinion?


This may sound like the ability to make a decision, but the ability to be decisive is essential as students grow up. Being decisive means being able to make decisions under pressure, feeling confident in yourself and your decisions, and standing strong in your convictions. While this is a great skill to be used in class, especially in exams, it’s also important to utilize as students begin to apply to college and enter college. Knowing what is a good fit, what is comfortable, and what is a good decision for you is important.

One trick to practice your decisiveness is to play a game of “Would You Rather?” at a rapid speed. Whether you’re taking a break from your Zoom class or at the lunch table with your classmates, give it a try!


It’s no secret that admissions officers look for demonstrated leadership on student profiles. One thing you may not know is that it doesn’t mean you have to be the class president, team captain, or founder/CEO! Demonstrating leadership simply means that you can present evidence of you leading a group whether it’s about a policy change in the club, making a system more efficient, or influencing positive change in your community, it’s these little acts of leadership that matter!

One tip to practice and demonstrate leadership is to start at home. What’s one thing you’d like to see change? Is it teaching your parents about better recycling practices? Influencing your siblings to spend less time in front of the TV? Think about how you can influence your family and home for the better!

Problem Solving

In a globalized world, we’re encountering a lot of problems we didn’t face 100 years ago: climate change, cyberbullying, and the negative impacts of single-use plastic are just a few examples! Colleges want students on their campus that are thought-leaders and problem solvers! Problem-solving skills are developed at an early age, especially in classes like math and science. However, students must expand outside of the classroom and demonstrate their problem-solving skills in the larger community.

One place to get started is to brainstorm problems in your own community. Is the public transportation system weak? Is there too much trash on the nearby beach or playground? Think about problems that not only impact you but your neighbors!


As students get closer to graduation, they will face more obstacles and rejection than they have in the past: internships, jobs, and college applications are just a few examples. It is important to remember that rejection does not mean failure, it simply means it was not a good fit. You can have near-perfect grades, test scores, etc., but if your interests or goals do not meet the need of a certain schools’ student body, you may receive a letter saying “I am very sorry to inform you that we cannot offer you admission to the class of 2026.” In order to look after your mental health, it is important to consider this as a possibility. Not getting accepted to the university of your choice is not the end of the world, and it is certainly not a bad thing. Sometimes the most powerful motivation is rejection.

One trick to practice your resilience is to look at internships and jobs in your free time that interest you. Not qualified? That’s alright! Filling out applications and attending interviews are great ways to prepare yourself life during and after your time in college. You’ll likely receive some no’s, but that’s alright! It’s good practice for job hunting and resilience!

Time Management

Having good organizational and time management skills is essential to being successful.

While you may already have larger goals set like where you want to attend college or what you want to study, smaller goals are just as important. Without small goals, accomplishing large goals becomes nearly impossible.

One tip is to create a roadmap! Next time you’re avoiding homework but still want to be productive, carve out 30 minutes to an hour to map out a personal timeline to follow. Include both small and large goals and deadlines. Think about when you should have your essay drafts done, when you should register for standardized tests, and when applications are due!

It’s likely that you’re off to a great start with some of these skills - and that’s a perfect place to start! No one is absolutely perfect at each of these skills, as we grow older and gain more experience, we learn how these different skills are used in all different aspects of life. Pro Tip: take it one step at a time.