The biggest mistake parents make when preparing their kids for university is to focus on academics.

Kids feel pressure early on for getting top grades so they can get accepted into university, and preferably the university and program of their choice. This pressure can start as early as grade 9 and 10 and sometimes means extra hours studying, working with tutors and engaged in extra academic programs to get a step ahead.

The #1 challenge most high school kids face when leaving high school is that they are not emotionally or socially prepared for the next step.

In a recent study of more than 1,500 first-year college students, carried out by The Harris Poll, a majority of first-year college students in the U.S. (60%) feel emotionally unprepared for college, and these students are more likely to report poor academic performance, regularly consume drugs or alcohol and rate their overall college experience as terrible/poor.


The Challenge Faced

Transitioning from high school to university can and will be for many students the most challenging experience they have faced in their lives. Getting accepted into university or college and maintaining good grades are just the beginning when it comes to challenges for young students. For most, the challenges go far beyond academics and finances. Most students aren’t ready for the social and emotional demands of their first year.


The 4 Biggest Changes


★  Personal Responsibility – students are in a new experience of being accountable and responsible for themselves.

★  Independence – students must balance course workload, social life and day to day living demands on their own.

★  Time Management – students must create their own schedule and spend their time effectively in a way they are not used to.

★  Social Demands – students will need to recreate their social world and feel social pressure to make new friends.

Students often feel overwhelmed, lonely, isolated and have difficulty adjusting. And for kids who are not emotionally prepared, transitions can sometimes be danger points because of the stress experienced with it. Students often struggle to get emotional support when they need it and often experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Some turn to drug and alcohol or high-risk behaviour for relief. The overall result is poor academic performance, regardless of how intellectually smart they are.

As a parent we can often feel overwhelmed when we consider the challenges our young students will be facing during this time. So how can you support your child as they transition into independence? How can you get them onto the best foot possible as they take the leap from high school to post secondary education and learn to navigate change effectively in their lives? How do you build resiliency in your young adults?


Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Skills for Resiliency

Research strongly shows the link between success in life and emotional intelligence. And for older teens and young adults, this also rings true and makes a difference in their academic and personal lives.

We’ve heard this term emotional intelligence. But what does it really mean? According to Dr Reuven Bar-On’s definition, who originally coined the term ‘Emotional Intelligence’, he defines it as:

“A set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way”.

But what does this mean for our young students? Can our students increase their emotional intelligence? And what key EI skills do our students need to be successful in their post secondary programs?

Studies show a strong link between academic achievement and the below dimensions of EI:

✩  Interpersonal

✩  Adaptability

✩  Stress Management

✩  Empathy

✩  Social Responsibility

✩  Flexibility

✩  Impulse Control

✩  Optimism

✩  Self Regard

✩  Problem Solving

✩  Independence


According to the research these skills are what’s needed to be successful in forming new relationships, learning new study habits, adapting to the increased academic demands and learning to live more independently.

And yes, our young students, and anyone for that matter, can increase their emotional intelligence. There are many effective exercises, behaviour modification techniques and programs for increasing your EI. Some I recommend are:

★  Mindfulness – a powerful approach to changing destructive behaviour, managing stress, encouraging self-care and increasing overall emotional wellbeing.

★  Applying the ABCDE’s – a system for altering your perceptions, attitudes and behaviour pioneered by Dr. Albert Ellis.

★  Get educated and start reading about emotional intelligence and learn about areas you would like to develop. The Student EQ Edge by Steven J. Stein, Howard E. Book and Korrel Kanoy is a great place to start, providing a definition of emotional intelligence and a road map for mastering EI skills. The adult version is also an excellent resource.

★  Get an EQ-i 2.0 Higher Education Assessment done for your student. This assessment tool provides a snapshot of a student’s emotional operating system and a framework for understanding their emotional intelligence skills. This includes a comprehensive report including interpretations of their EI skills and development strategies to increase the skills where they see some opportunities.

★  Hire a coach that specializes in EQ skill development that can work closely with your student to create a space for them to explore themselves deeply, discover their own resourcefulness and develop their own resilience to be effective in their lives.


Together let’s make future leaders out of our kids!