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Social Skills All Students Need

Anne Maytubby

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Between being thrown into a completely new pool of people my age to suddenly having to learn how to address professors and adults professionally, starting college was a time of social “firsts.”

One thing that I found most intimidating when I arrived at college was the immediate exposure to communicating with adults, and being treated as an adult in return. In high school, I was lucky to have teachers who already knew me because of my older siblings, and I felt like I never really had to “start fresh” with adults or other peers.

So, when I got to college and was faced with professors who had no previous opinion of me and my first impression mattered, there were a few things that I never thought to consider.

Having a Firm Handshake

This was something my dad always made me practice with him as I was growing up — I did as a joke, but now I’m so thankful that he emphasized to me how important it is to have a firm handshake! When I got to college, whether it was in a job interview or meeting professors one-on-one for the first time, having a strong and confident handshake can make all the difference in a first impression.

Making Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact, whether in a meeting or just conversation with adults, is something I’ve found to be very meaningful. It can be intimidating, but in my opinion makes any conversation more memorable and impactful.

Even when taking classes online, my professors have challenged us to look into the camera (and not look at ourselves or at notes) when we are presenting on Zoom. This was definitely challenging, but again, means a lot to professors (and can help improve a presentation grade)!

Having a Thoughtful Introduction About Yourself

When I was faced with my first professional interview during my freshman year of college, I really didn’t know what to expect. While feeling confident in interviews often comes with experience and practice, I found that a few tips helped me feel more prepared.

First, I made sure to have a solid introduction for myself. I found that if I could seamlessly answer questions about myself, like what brought me to the job, what my passions are, why I chose to go to my university, etc., this starts the interview off on the right foot and allows me to focus on the tougher questions that a prospective employer might have.

Sending Professional Emails

Whether it’s emailing a professor with a simple homework question or emailing an employer after an interview, leaving a good impression on people can be just as important online as it is in person.

Whenever I write an email to an adult, I make sure to address them professionally (e.g., Dr., Professor), use complete sentences, and thank them at the end of the email. This might seem simple and self-explanatory, but it can make all the difference in gaining the respect of adults around you!

Managing a Social Life

One of my favorite pieces of advice I received before starting college was to not be afraid to say yes, but also know when to say no. Especially when I first got there and was trying to meet as many people as possible, saying yes was so important! It can be intimidating to accept an invite to something when you don’t know many people, but this is an essential part of getting acclimated and finding “your people” in a new place.

While “saying yes” was one of the ways I met many of my best friends at school, it’s also important to recognize that there needs to be a balance. Sometimes it’s necessary to say no and pass on something with friends if that means getting to study more for an exam, or just taking some time for yourself. One of the best things about college is that there will always be something going on — this is exciting, but also recognize that if you have to miss one night with friends there will be hundreds more!

The social aspects of college are some of the best and most memorable, but balancing this with academics and mental health can be challenging. College is full of so many new experiences! I hope these tips help your student feel a little more confident in all their relationships and endeavors.

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Anne is a recent graduate from the University of San Diego with a degree in Environmental and Ocean Sciences. Outside of work, she loves to travel, hike, attend concerts, and spend time with close friends (and her dog Max).
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