More Than a GPA — Seven Qualities That Matter

Throughout high school, your student worried about his GPA in order to gain admission to college.  Throughout college, students worry about their GPA in order to get a good job, make Dean’s List (or maybe to avoid academic probation), or to graduate with honors.

Grades matter.  They always have, and they will continue to matter for the foreseeable future.  Testing matters, extracurricular activities matter, internships matter.  Whether your student is in high school looking at college admission or in college looking toward a career, there are many factors that come into play.

In spite of the importance of all of the many factors that students must balance as they participate in school, we’d like to suggest seven qualities that will serve college students well.  They are certainly not the only important characteristics that will help your student succeed, but they are a foundation.  Talk to your student about their college career and their focus on GPA.  Don’t discount it, it matters, but help your student to think about some other qualities that will help them succeed — and that will serve them well as they look for a job and navigate their career.


Your student’s ability to adapt to new situations, new requirements, and new people will be important. Students adapt constantly to new professors, new styles of classroom management, new living situations, and often new policies or rules.  Help your student think about how to maximize this quality and to translate that flexibility to new situations once they graduate.


Creativity, originality, the ability to think ”outside of the box” will be crucial as your student navigates an ever changing work world.  Encourage your student to foster their own original thinking as they go through their college experiences.  How can they take what they are learning and find new angles, application, or approaches?  Creativity takes practice.  Help your student start practicing this skill early.


Patience is a difficult quality for this millennial generation to master.  Our college students have grown up in an age of rapid everything, of ”instant.”  Learning to slow down, to take small steps, to allow something (including a career) to develop, and to watch something grow slowly is extremely difficult.  Talk to your student about maintaining patience without boredom.  Slowing down doesn’t mean stopping or stalling.  (Perhaps we, as parents, need to work on this quality as well?)


Does your student have a sense of purpose?  Do they know where they are going and why?  Do they have a clear sense of what matters to them in life?  It is a tall order for a college student.  Some students know exactly what they want early in their college careers (or even before).  Other students may not yet know where they are headed, or may experience a major shift of direction.  Although your student may not know where they want their life to go, it is important that your student know that a sense of purpose will be important eventually.  Help your student think about how to go about finding a sense of purpose. (And help your student remember that their sense of purpose may or may not drive their career choice.)  Each student’s timetable will be different, and the journey to discover purpose may be as important as the destination.


Whether your student is still searching for their sense of purpose or striving toward a specific goal, the quality of being able to stick-to-it is essential.  Persistence in the face of failure and disappointment is sometimes not a strong quality of this generation.  As parents, we have protected and supported our students to the extent that they may not have enough experience picking themselves up from the dirt, dusting themselves off, and continuing toward their goal.  Encourage your student to realize that failure is an important part of learning and success.  Help them learn not to give up in the face of roadblocks.


One of the key concepts students are encouraged to embrace is networking.  Students are encouraged to reach out and make connections.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, the social networking that students participate in encourage extending connections.  But perhaps helping your student think about how and why those networks can work — or fail — is equally important.  Help your student think about identifying with other people, understanding how they feel, looking at the world from their perspective.  Your student may have hundreds of people in their network, but if they don’t truly connect with them, your student will not be able to expand their horizons.


This is one quality that seems to come more easily for this emerging adult generation.  Our students see the world as a world of possibility.  Help your student continue to see the good in the world, to see the room for growth and understanding, to view the future as the place where they will be able to make a difference.

Your student’s college years are a time when many of these qualities will be essential and a time when these qualities can be discovered, practiced, and solidified.  As a college parent, you may need to help your student realize the importance of these qualities.  Sharing your experiences may help.  How have these qualities affected your life’s path?

Are there other qualities you would emphasize?  Feel free to add to this list . . .

Related Posts:

Eight Benefits of Taking Difficult Courses in College

Eight Factors That Can Help Your Student Land a Job and Build a Career

Why Studying the Arts Can Help Your Student Succeed in College

Helping Your Student With Goal Setting – and Action Plans

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