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15 Soft Skills That Stand Out To College Admissions

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When you’re building your resume for college applications, it is important to include not just your hard skills (programs, techniques, and other job-specific skills) but also your soft skills (qualities and characteristics that allow you to interact effectively with others).


Soft skills are becoming increasingly important in college admissions. Colleges want to see that you can interact easily with people such as employers and peers. They also want to see how you will contribute to the well-being of the student body, academics, and campus life. In short, your soft skills tell colleges a lot about you.


It is not enough to simply list any soft skills that you may possess. There are certain soft skills and traits that colleges prefer to see in their admitted students. It is to your advantage to branch out and try to develop as many of these skills as you can. For a complete list of the best soft skills to have for college admissions, keep reading.



Eye Contact

If you can’t look at someone while you’re having a conversation, you run the risk of looking nervous, uncomfortable, or distracted. If you can maintain eye contact during a conversation, you validate your interest in the conversation and desire to contribute ideas. Maintaining eye contact during conversations will definitely help you out in the college admissions process, especially in that all-important college interview.


Need more tips to prepare for your college interview? See How To Prepare For Your College Interview.



Ability To Listen and Document What You Have Heard

If you think that taking notes during lectures stops after high school and college, you are mistaken. Every admissions committee knows that whether it’s a corporate meeting, conference, or other professional development activity, you’re going to need to know how to listen and take notes on what your peers and superiors are saying.


So all of those note-taking requirements your teachers are assigning to you are actually going to be worth it after all. It may seem silly to list “note-taking” as a skill, but you’d be amazed how often you are going to have to do that in both the academic and professional world.



Caring About Seeing The Team Succeed

It’s not enough in the professional world to do your job from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and then go home. In order to receive good performance reviews and earn promotions, you need to show you are invested in your team/company’s projects and are genuinely interested in seeing everyone succeed. It’s that “team player” attitude that bosses really like and colleges want to see in their students.


Being a team player is a soft skill that you should convey on both your resume and on your college applications. Your college essays are a prime opportunity for you to do that. For instance, if one of your essay topics involves group work of any kind, you should communicate a sense of caring about the success of your team.




The world is constantly changing, and colleges want to see that you will be able to change along with it. If you can’t adapt to new circumstances and ways of doing things, or if you get stuck in old habits, your skills and usefulness in the professional world will become outdated very quickly. Thus, you need to learn to roll with the punches and learn new techniques and methods as they arise.




College is a huge change, both from an academic and personal perspective. Colleges want to see students who can be flexible in the way they learn and the way they live so that they know that their students will be able to get along and be happy at their university.


A great way to start being more flexible is to put yourself in situations that you may not have experienced before. For example, when you’re on your next vacation, try to immerse yourself in the local language and culture and change your daily habits to fit that of the locals. This will teach you how to adapt to new lifestyles and be more flexible in the way that you live your life.




Nobody likes someone who can’t accept responsibility for their actions, least of all colleges. That’s why one of the most common college interview questions is to name a time that you failed. They want to see that you can own up to the things that you have done, both positive and negative. You need to be able to take responsibility for your actions, good and bad, and be able to take criticism.

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Positive Work Ethic

Colleges want to see that their students are willing to work hard and are enthusiastic about the things that they’re learning. They want the kind of students who won’t gripe and groan every time a new assignment is given out but will rise to the challenge and take each task as a new learning opportunity.



Staying With The Job Until It Is Finished

When you’re applying to colleges, you want to make sure that they know that you’re not a quitter and that you will follow through on your projects, tasks, and other commitments no matter how hard or bad it may be.


If you have an example of a particularly difficult project you saw through till the end, colleges will be impressed to hear about it. You can try to work it in during a college interview or in one of your college essays.




Knowing how to follow directions and be amenable to new ideas is a whole skill in itself. Whether it be through a group project in college or with your team at the office, you are almost certainly going to be working for and with people who expect things out of you that you aren’t totally on board with.


Cooperating in these situations means picking your battles and deciding whether you want to fight your superiors/team members on the situation or simply be cooperative and go with the flow. It’s not always easy to go along with something, especially if you don’t agree with it, but it can certainly make projects and other team-based activities much less complicated.




Group work does not end in high school or even college. You are going to be working in teams for a very long time. You need to exhibit a collaborative mindset and be willing to bounce ideas off your team. You also need to know how to synthesize everyone’s ideas into one cohesive final product.


The hardest obstacle when it comes to collaboration is making sure that everyone’s ideas get heard and maybe even implemented, even if you don’t agree with it. This is where you have an opportunity to become the leader of your group. You can take the initiative and make sure everyone in the group feels like they are included and contributing to the collaboration.



Communication Skills

You’d be amazed how hard it is for some teenagers to communicate, especially to adults. A simple handshake, hello, and friendly conversation is the minimum amount that will be expected of you by the time college applications roll around, especially in a college interview setting. If you can go beyond that, however, colleges and adults, in general, will be very impressed.


What does going above and beyond look like? It’s someone who doesn’t just have to stick to small chit-chat. It’s a student who is well-read and knowledgeable enough to participate in an intellectual conversation with an adult and even reasonably holds their own if it comes to an argument. If you can converse with an adult and leave a lasting positive impression on them, you have great communication skills.




You never want to be in a situation where your boss doesn’t assign you to a big project or you don’t get a promotion because people don’t trust you to get things done. For that reason, you need to demonstrate that you can follow up on your tasks and assignments in a timely and efficient manner. Strive to become the person that people can come to when they’re in a pinch.


It’s very easy to show reliability in your daily life. Simply turning in your assignments on time, going the extra mile to take on some extra work in your extracurriculars and other projects, and doing good and thorough work will convince people that you are a reliable person. It’s important to start doing these things early, as you will want your teachers to refer to you as a reliable student when it comes time to ask for college recommendation letters.




Unlike middle school and high school, where you are given specific instructions on all of your assignments and projects, college professors and work professionals are going to expect you to do more with less. You need to be able to operate and create a good final product with relatively little direction and not have to ask a million questions or rely on others too much.


You can start becoming more self-directed now in your everyday classes. All you have to do is make a conscious effort to listen to directions in class and try to figure out the things you don’t understand intuitively before you start asking questions. You can also ask your friends to help if you don’t understand something instead of going straight to the teacher. This is all part of an exercise in figuring things out for yourself.




Learning shouldn’t stop once you finish school. You should always be ready to learn new techniques, skills, or concepts that will help you in your personal and professional development. Demonstrate your eagerness to learn and grow by asking questions and showing interest, especially to those who have greater knowledge or experiences that you are unfamiliar with. Odds are, they will be more than happy to share their story and educate you.




Confidence is key. While, it’s natural to be shy, nervous, or intimidated as you enter college for the first time, you should look for ways to improve your confidence now. This can be done by joining clubs, exercising, branching out and making new friends, and talking to new people. Believing in yourself and showing confidence is a sign of maturity that colleges really look for in their students.



For More Information

Want more information to help you apply to college? See these previous blog posts from CollegeVine:


How Can I Make My College Applications Stand Out?

13 College Application Goals For This Fall

Knowing the Lingo: College Admissions and Application Acronyms

What Is the Ideal Timeline For the College Application Process?


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!