What is Social Emotional Readiness?
By Julie Sweitzer
Setting goals and creating relationships with peers and adults that support achieving goals are the cornerstones of social emotional college readiness. This includes a variety of skills we might consider academic behaviors, such as time management and participating in study groups.
Setting goals include the long-term goal of graduating from a postsecondary institution, but it starts with short term goals. These might include regularly attending class for a week, completing home work on time for a month, or contributing one comment to class discussions. Ramp-Up to Readiness™ includes a tool to help students set goals, reflect on whether they were achieved and why or why not, along with helping the student identify supports (people or other resources) that could be used to help achieve the goal.
A growth mindset is part of social emotional readiness. People with a growth mindset believe that their basic abilities can be developed through hard work and persistence. Too often adolescents have developed an attitude of “I’m just not good at math/writing/reading.” Instead we need to convince youth that anyone can get better at any skill, and help them explore new ways of approaching challenging skills. Demonstrating by engaging in our own learning experiences can be effective.
Skills such as time management become even more valuable once a student moves beyond the protective and often flexible demands of high school. One of my daughters became so engaged in the social side of college that big projects were put off, and when they inevitably took more time than she anticipated, her work product and grades suffered. When peers helped direct her to an academic support office, the advisor helped her identify procrastination. She bought a planner and used it, a simple step that changed her academic trajectory.
Similarly study groups are useful strategies in college, and it is so much easier to start one if you are familiar with and have practiced participating in study groups in high school. They can help students stay on schedule with a syllabus, and improve their understanding of the course material.
Knowing when and where to ask for help is essential in college and life. Even academically strong students are likely to run into a challenging test or course in college. Anxiety and stress increase, and mental health resources are increasing on college campuses. Visiting college faculty in their offices to ask questions can be intimidating. Students with disabilities are used to schools reaching out to them to develop accommodations, but in college all of the responsibility rests on the student. We must share the message that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help but indeed is a sign of strength, and that everyone needs help at some point.
Social emotional readiness can help pull an unprepared student through college, but without it, any student might find the new demands of college and young adult life too challenging. This is why our Ramp-Up to Readiness program, which kickstarts college and career readiness for students in grades 6 - 12 across the country, teaches social and emotional skills. As a result of learning in the Ramp-Up program, 91% of surveyed students said they believe they can do well in school, while 87% said they were more likely to attend college. In addition, 81% stated they were more likely to seek help when they face an obstacle because of what they learned in Ramp-Up.
About the author: Julie Sweitzer is Executive Director of the College Readiness Consortium and Ramp-Up to Readiness. Previously she directed the Minnesota Principals Academy and helped create Youth Central, a website that makes it easy to find the University of Minnesota programs and activities that serve K12 students and families. Julie was an elected board member of the St. Louis Park Public Schools for 12 years.
She holds a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota’s Law School.