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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Build Up Social Skills as a High Schooler

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High school isn’t just about building an impressive profile to gain entrance to a top college⁠—this period is also about mastering the social skills required to succeed in various aspects of life. Along with communicating effectively, students should be able to collaborate with others, respect peers’ space and opinions, and stand up for themselves in school and social situations.


A recent study emphasizes the importance of developing social skills early in students’ academic careers. According to a report by researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Duke University, kindergarten students who scored high on social skills were four times as likely to complete college as those who earned low marks in this arena. In other words, social skills are a strong indicator of a student’s future success.


The good news is there are steps high school students can take now to boost their social IQ and improve their odds of succeeding in college and the workplace. Keep reading for tips to build up your social skills before you leave high school.


Social Skills to Build Up Before College


College freshmen face a number of challenges, such as managing their schedules and living away from home for the first time. One of the best ways to ensure a smooth transition to college life is to practice some of the necessary social skills before leaving high school. Here are some skills crucial to succeeding in high school, college, and the working world:


Communicating Face to Face

With so many interactions taking place on smartphones and computers, high school students sometimes struggle to communicate with peers in-person. Whether they’re chatting casually between classes or having more serious conversations about group projects, students need to practice talking and listening face to face. In particular, students should be able to focus all their attention on the person speaking and avoid getting distracted by incoming text messages or ambient noises.


Speaking Your Mind

Being an active listener is an important social skill, but successful conversationalists also know when to be assertive. Before leaving for college, students should learn how to stand up for themselves in interactions both in and outside of school. For example, high schoolers should be able to express their views in class discussions, defend their ideas in study groups, and push back against peer pressure at a social event. These skills will serve them well when they enter the workforce and need to share their ideas in meetings, or negotiate their salary.


Asking for Help

One of the most valuable social skills for high schoolers is the ability to ask for help. After all, going to college means experiencing new situations where it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Students with strong social skills aren’t afraid to put themselves out there by asking to sit at a new table at lunch, or telling a teacher they need a concept explained more clearly.


What Can Students Do to Improve Their Social Skills?


It’s not enough to know what social skills are essential for success in high school and beyond. Students also need to find ways of mastering these abilities. Here are some tips for improving social skills while still in school:


Opt for Team Activities

Students often feel most comfortable being social when they’re doing something they enjoy. Joining a club or team can be a great way to develop a hobby while practicing some of the social skills that lead to success later in life. For example, a student who enjoys playing the guitar may consider auditioning for the school band. Similarly, a student who loves reading might opt to start a book club. Group activities allow students to develop meaningful connections with peers, and because everyone is gathered together for a common purpose, there’s also less pressure on individuals to come up with conversation starters. Students can relax and enjoy the activity without worrying about what they’re saying.


Get Comfortable With Performing

Public speaking is a struggle for adults and teenagers alike. If you want to improve your social skills and become a better communicator, consider an extracurricular activity that requires speaking in front of crowds. For example, you might opt to join the debate team, sign up for the improv comedy club, or try out for a role in the school play. Sometimes doing the thing you’re afraid of is the best way to overcome your fear and achieve your goals.

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What Can Shy Students Do to Boost Their Skills?


A common misconception is that shyness is equivalent to introversion. These two terms can go hand in hand, but can also stand alone. People who are shy are afraid of social interaction, while introverts prefer spending time alone and often feel tired after a social gathering. Shyness can sometimes prevent students from giving strong presentations in school, from taking leadership roles, or from making friends. Here’s what students on the more timid side can do to be more confident going into college and the real world.


Practice Conversations

It might sound silly, but practicing conversations ahead of time can go a long way toward boosting students’ confidence in social situations. Whether it’s rehearsing an oral report or role playing what to say to a prospective date, running through these scenarios in advance gives students time to revise their message and tone to achieve the best result. Students may even want to take turns playing both people in the conversation so they can get a better sense of how the other party is likely to react.


Start a Blog or Journal

Blogging or writing in a journal is a great way to work through feelings and ideas before venturing into a social situation. When you write out your thoughts, you have the chance to decide how you feel about something before talking about it with others. For example, a student might write a journal entry about anxiety they’re feeling over attending an upcoming party. Ideally, when the time actually comes to attend the party, they’ll be less nervous because they had time to process the activity beforehand. Blogging can also allow shy students to express themselves without the stress of a real-time audience. If they choose to vlog (video blog), that can be even more helpful, as it requires speaking relatively spontaneously.


Tag Along with Your Outgoing Friend

Getting support from an outgoing friend can allow timid students to feel more comfortable in settings that might normally cause anxiety. The extroverted student might be able to introduce their shyer friend to a group of new friends, bring them to a social gathering, or give them reassurance as a presentation partner. 


Tips for Parents of High Schoolers


Parents can support their high schools by encouraging them to pursue extracurricular activities that enable them to showcase their natural talents. However, if your efforts aren’t yielding the desired results, it might be time to bring in a professional to help. A trained guidance counselor or therapist can support students in overcoming shyness and social anxiety. Additionally, these mental health professionals can help students get to the root of any issues that may be impeding their social development. 


As a parent, you likely want to do everything in your power to prepare your child for college success. However, helping students mature means giving them room to grow their confidence. By encouraging high schoolers to be independent, parents can give them a head start on the road to college success.


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Short Bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.