What are the top skills a college
student should have?
Whether you’ve recently graduated or are well into your sophomore year, developing these
skills will be crucial to navigate college and being part of the workforce.
Being assertive when communicating your opinions is a tremendous way to show maturity and confidence. As a college student and employee, being direct without sounding rude will be an asset you can keep throughout your life and career.
Whether it’s a school group project or working your shift at a restaurant, collaboration is an indispensable college skill. Being a great collaborator means knowing how to communicate, when to compromise and when to be assertive.
Developing a sense of responsibility is crucial to succeeding in college and your first job. Understanding the consequences of not meeting your commitments will help you avoid falling through on your duties and ensure your trustworthiness.
The transition from being a high schooler to an independent college student will come with changes you’ll need to adapt to quickly. Take these changes in stride, be prepared for hard times, and be proactive in finding solutions.
Now, you’ll balance many responsibilities and unsupervised free time. Set time to study, work and socialize. If you’re prone to get distracted, get an agenda or use tools like the Pomodoro technique to finish your coursework without burnout.
If you want to stand out, professors and employers will always look for individuals who display leadership. If you show initiative and the ability to organize and lead peers, you’ll be considered for great advancement opportunities.
Granted, as a young college student, you were likely born into the digital age. However, many tools used in the workplace might be unfamiliar to your cyber world, i.e., POS systems, project management software, Blackboard, Excel.
Exhibiting professionalism will set you apart from many people in college and the workforce. Always be polite, use appropriate language and honor your time commitments if you want to be everyone’s first choice when working with others.
Good communication skills are the foundation of success for almost every job and life challenge as a college student and beyond. You’ll communicate with professors and employers who view impeccable writing and speaking as the standard.
You’ll have to learn to be independent as a college student without your mom and dad always being present. Consider details like commuting, being on time to work, doing your laundry, cooking your meals and making appointments.
In college and in work, you’ll realize how your decisions can affect your and other people’s future and livelihood. Use critical thinking to analyze your choices, their consequences, and always look for the ideal solution.
In college and work, you’ll meet people of different races, ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations. You’ll have to respect these differences and be comfortable with diversity when communicating with students and colleagues.
Soft skills versus hard skills
Having a diverse set of skills is crucial when searching for a part-time job to get you through
school.You need the right balance between soft and hard college skills in your resume to
convince employers you’re a well-rounded candidate that can handle responsibilities, be
efficient and work well with others.
- Hard skills refer to your ability to perform job-specific tasks.
- You can learn hard skills through education and practical experience.
- Hard skills are provable and can be backed with a certification or by an expert.
- Examples of hard skills are proficiency in Excel or other software programs, data analysis, or fluency in a language.
- Soft skills tend to be innate abilities or personal traits.
- You can develop some soft skills with practice and intention.
- Soft skills help you communicate with others, collaborate and perform your task efficiently.
- Examples of soft skills are communication, listening, and conflict resolution.
Build my Resume
How to include skills in your
college student resume
The way you include college student skills in your resume will differ depending on the type of format you choose when writing your resume.
If you didn’t already know, there are three established ways of writing a resume called resume formats.
These resume formats organize your resume’s sections in unique ways to showcase your best strengths and downplay your weaknesses.
- The most well-known resume format.
- Focuses on the work history section.
- Includes one skills section in the form of a list.
- Best for candidates with 10+ years of experience.
- The least common resume format.
- Focuses on an expanded skills section with more details.
- Work history section is minimal.
- Ideal for college students and recent graduates.
- Combines elements of the chronological and functional formats.
- Skills section goes above the work history section.
- Can include multiple skills sections, i.e., a summary of skills, key skills and core qualifications.
- Works for almost all candidates, but is great for career changers.
Skills in a functional resume
The functional resume allows college students and recent graduates with little to no work
experience to showcase the knowledge and skills they have to thrive in the workplace.
The skills section takes precedence over the work history in a functional resume.
You will pick three of your top college student skills that show you’re the best candidate for
the job. Alongside each skill, you will add a few bullet points where you share achievements
demonstrating your expertise.
Check out this example of how a recent high school graduate showcases his sales skills in
their functional resume.
- Worked three consecutive summers at Journeys as a sales associate, where I assisted clients in shoe selection, worked on the cash register and POS system, organized stock room and led sales floor team meetings.
- Organized six fundraising events where we gathered funds from chocolate bar sales, bake sales, car wash service and concession stand sales.
- Successfully launched a sneaker and apparel resale operation from my home, where I have amassed over $3,000 in profits in the past year.
Need more help writing your resume’s skills section? Use our Resume Builder to create a professional and personalized resume in record time.
What does our Resume Builder offer?
- A 100+ database of professional soft, hard and technical skills.
- AI-powered content suggestions for all your resume sections so you spend less time writing and more time applying.
- An auto-save feature and unlimited space for multiple resumes in cloud storage.
- Spell-checker and user-friendly editing tools for a perfectly formatted resume.
- Over a dozen beautiful and polished resume templates you can customize.
Get started with our
These resume examples show you what a professional resume looks like, what achievements you should highlight, the right skills for a student resume, and the appropriate language you should use.
- Delivery Driver
- Sales Associate
- Customer Service Representative
- Administrative Assistant
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