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Five Non-Academic Skills that Spell College Success

Working on a computer

Academic ability ranks high on the “must-have” list for getting into college and successfully earning a degree, but there are a couple of other skills that educators and parents can help students focus on to make sure that they get an “A” in college readiness.


Ability to follow directions

You might think that this goes without saying, but the ability to follow both simple and complex directions will be a skill that students will need in every facet of their college lives. Completing college applications together is a great opportunity to practice by letting your student prepare their packet, and making sure they submit all the necessary materials for admission consideration.


Comfort with technology

Sure, students these days might seem as though they were born with a smartphone in their hands, and they’ve never lived a day without Google, but technology goes beyond surfing the internet and is a standard tool in many college classes. Your student needs to be comfortable with online research, email communications and to be prepared to tackle various software programs. A substantial amount of services students need will be accessed electronically – things like class registration, the university library database, competitive assistantships and internship applications.



Whether it’s expressing themselves to their roommate, their professor or to a class, students need to be able to communicate effectively. But since communication is a two-way street, your student will need to be able to sharpen their listening skills as well. This will help them as they navigate their way through classroom discussions and presentations, through life in student housing and as they prepare for the professional world.



College students are held accountable for their academic, personal and social actions. For a number of students, this is the first time in their lives that their schedule will truly be of their own making. For others, this is the first step in learning how to manage and live by a budget. If you haven’t started already, create a working budget with your student and discuss who will pay for what, and how much money they’ll need when they head to college. Put the budget in writing and agree that once your student is in school, you’ll follow up periodically to adjust the budget as circumstances change.



From Kindergarten to when they turn the tassel on their high school graduation cap, many parents are their children’s biggest educational advocates. As a parent, you recognize that the “one size fits all” approach does not work because every student is different and they each have different dreams. But once they step on to the college campus, they have to take the reins. Your student will need to learn how to identify his or her needs and be able to explain them to others. You can help them learn how to ask for help when they need it.

While these skills can help put your child on the right path towards college, some students find themselves facing additional obstacles in preparing for college ---finances, knowledge about the application process, or simply needing the right encouragement.

Virginia529 partners with approximately 90 schools around the Commonwealth through SOAR Virginia®, an early commitment program that provides financial support and college preparatory assistance to eligible sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Check to see if your school offers the SOAR Virginia program!


What the SOAR Virginia Student Can Expect
  • Advising on academic preparation for post-secondary education
  • Financial literacy training
  • Assistance completing college applications
  • Assistance in obtaining financial aid, including help completing the FAFSA
  • Scholarship support of up to $2,000 to apply toward post-secondary education
  • Support from an Early Commitment Advisor and the SOAR Virginia community

College and career success are impacted by a number of factors beyond academic mastery of subjects. Whether it be behaviors, skills, attitudes or strategies, these factors have a direct relationship to school performance and future outcomes.  There’s no better time than now to make sure your student develops the skills he or she needs through hands-on, real life experiences and supportive conversations.


Established as a pilot program in 2010 and made permanent in 2015, SOAR Virginia further expands Virginia529’s mission to make higher education more affordable and accessible, especially to students who face financial obstacles. To learn more about becoming a SOAR Virginia partner, visit

Resources to help you learn

Frequently Asked Questions

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Smart Savers Academy

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Invest529 Portfolio Performance

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