When you start the college search process it’s easy to become overwhelmed and focus completely on the task at hand. First there are the visits, then you compare colleges, then you begin working on the applications that include the essay, and finally completing the FAFSA to qualify for financial aid. With all these tasks at hand, and a focus on academics and test scores, it’s not surprising that many forget to evaluate themselves for other important skill sets. Without these skills, all your preparation and hard work to get accepted will leave you ill-prepared for college life.

Financial skills

When you head off to college there will be many financial decisions you need to make, beginning with how much student loan debt you are willing to incur. Use loan repayment calculators to determine the amount of your payments after graduation and use these figures to make wise decisions about loans. You will also need to know how to budget your money in regards to other college costs such as books, living expenses and entertainment. Add to that the knowledge of credit card rates and how easily it is to fall into debt using them for simple things such as pizza. Many students graduate from college with over $10,000 in credit card debt.

Social skills

If you’re headed off to college to hook up with the party scene, you are in for a rude awakening when your first semester grades are released. Many students forget that partying affects their study time and class attendance. If you’re exhausted from partying the night before, you’re less likely to get up for that early class. Recognize that while making friends and enjoying the social scene are necessary for your overall satisfaction of the college experience, you should not forget the reason you came to college: to get an education. Learn how to balance your social life with your academic life.

Academic skills

College is not like high school. Professors expect that you do your assignments and don’t check up on you if you don’t. Coming to college with refined study and organization skills will help you adjust to the rigorous course requirements of a college degree program. Managing your time is also important as it relates to class assignments, studying for tests and preparing term papers.

Mental skills

College life produces a whole new set of mental and emotional problems. Many students face homesickness early and should recognize that those feelings are normal. You should go to college with the skills needed to cope with stress and the feeling of loneliness that often occurs. Recognize that all these factors contribute to your overall mental health and know beforehand where you can find help if you need it.

Problem solving skills

College is no different than life—obstacles occur on a daily basis and you will need the skills to deal with those obstacles. You will be confronted with conflict and should know how to resolve that conflict, either by yourself or with a mediator (such as an RA or student advisor). You will face situations that require you to advocate for yourself and you should be comfortable doing this before you head off to college and become completely independent.

So much time is spent preparing for the actual college choice and application that very little time and effort goes into prepping for these valuable life skills. You may be prepared for the academic rigors of college, but neglecting to prepare for all the other aspects of college life might affect your success and ultimate degree completion.

What other skills do you feel you need to be prepared for college?

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