One Secret Step to Success

When I speak with new students at the start of the year, I always share the same message: Go to every class, on time and prepared to work. Don’t skip class. If you’ve missed a class already, don’t ever do it again.

More and more, research is supporting what educators have long known – the measure of a student’s ability to succeed in the college environment has just as much to do with their tenacity and responsibility as their natural intelligence.

This idea that non-cognitive, soft skills are just as important as SAT scores and GPAs has a number of ramifications; both for college admissions and for the ways we educate our students once they arrive on campus.

James Heckman, a Nobel Prize winning economist at the University of Chicago explains: “test scores explain only a tiny fraction of the variability among individuals – who’s successful and who’s not – and that other factors are out there that aren’t measured – that aren’t even accounted for – in public policy that make a big difference.”

Paul Tough, a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and author of “How Children Succeed” is also exploring the phenomena and labels these non-cognitive skills as “character.”

What research is showing us, and what Dr. Heckman and Mr. Tough are trying to explain, are phenomena educators see everyday in our classrooms. Success is, in many ways, about what you do with what you’re given. It isn’t easy; it doesn’t come easily to even the smartest among us. Successes are won. At Philadelphia University we believe that evaluation and enhancements of learning and social skills can leverage the students’ assets; whatever they are.

Our curriculum is specifically designed to teach professional skills, but in doing so it instills soft skills that lead to successes. The collaborative and transdisciplinary nature of our brand of Nexus Learning mean that responsibility for a product, and accountability to your fellow students, are a part of each project and assignment our students undertake. What they are learning runs deeper than testable academics. They are strengthening non-cognitive, but essential skills.

In the global market, a large part of the competitive edge the United States possesses is through an educated, skilled and knowledgeable citizenry. In other words: go to college and we’ll all get ahead. At the same time, the US boasts the highest drop out rate in the world. It’s soft skills – tenacity and grit – that help to close that gap. We need professional leaders who are persistent and will fight for their successes.

At Philadelphia University, our education philosophy encourages active participation with faculty, staff, and other students. It calls on students to be responsible and professional from the start of their programs. The nature of this learning process inherently builds non-cognitive skills – ones that will be assists both in our classrooms and in the professional world outside our doors.

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