How Social-Emotional Skills Prepare High School Students for College and Careers

So much goes into college- and career-readiness. Students need to have academic knowledge, meet GPA and course requirements, and for certain jobs, they need technical skills.

And of course, they also need social-emotional skills, sometimes called “soft skills.” In fact, the number one skill employers look for in new hires is creative problem-solving, followed by critical thinking and teamwork. Social-emotional skills are also crucial for college and trade school, and they help students navigate the challenges, choices, and workplace requirements they will face throughout their lives.

Here are a few ways social-emotional skills prepare students to become happy, successful, and productive members of society after they graduate high school.


Understanding our thoughts, emotions, and values is challenging—even for many adults. Developing a strong sense of self-awareness takes time and effort. By helping students build these skills, we are giving them a leg up in discovering who they are, their social identities, and what values they hold. Self-awareness also includes having confidence in their ability to achieve their goals, which is crucial to students’ success after high school.


Think about all the ways we use self-management skills in our everyday lives. Students need to learn things like healthy eating habits, getting enough sleep, finding effective ways to manage stress, time-management, etc. Knowing how to manage their behavior and emotions in the real-world will help students maintain healthier and happier lives.

Relationship Skills

After students leave high school, their opportunities for meeting new people and building new relationships often change. Whether they go to college or a trade school, start a new job, join the military, etc., students need to know how to build relationships and work collaboratively with others.

Responsible Decision-Making

Our choices can have lasting impacts on our lives. As students transition to adulthood, they need to know how to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks various actions may have. This includes being able to make thoughtful and constructive judgements, finding solutions to personal problems, viewing situations with an open mind, and using critical thinking.

Goal-Directed Behavior

To be successful, productive, and happy, students need to learn how to set and achieve meaningful goals. This is an important way that we continue to move forward and grow in our lives, as it gives us purpose and a sense of accomplishment. Goal-setting also reinforces many of the other social-emotional skills that students need, such as planning, organization, time-management, communication, confidence, and self-efficacy.

Optimistic Thinking

Having a sense of optimism and hope for the future is an important skill that helps students overcome adversity, risk, and change. It helps them believe in themselves and build their confidence in overcoming challenges. This skill is especially important for students fresh out of high school, when they are likely to experience new challenges, setbacks, and negative outcomes. Teaching students optimistic thinking skills helps them understand that they can learn and grow from their mistakes or setbacks.

It’s no longer enough for schools to only provide instruction in core subjects like math, science, and reading. Educators need to prioritize SEL so students graduate high school with the skills they need to thrive and succeed in life.

Ready to learn more? Contact our SEL advisors today!