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What Does College and Career Readiness Really Mean?

A few helpful tips on how graduates can best prepare themselves for college and beyond

Audrey Campbell
Audrey Campbell

As students navigate the complex path to college and beyond, many may wonder what it means to be prepared for life after high school in this modern day. Does college readiness mean the ability to pull all-nighters before an exam? Does career readiness have to entail four summer-long internships that lead to an entry-level position?

Unfortunately, there is no simple task list of items that one can just "check off" on their journey; there is an infinite number of ways to arrive at higher education and a successful career. With this in mind, we gathered the stories and lessons from thought-leaders, college consultants, and recent graduates from around the world to discern several essential elements of preparedness that the modern student should keep in mind.

Here are a few key components we learned about college and career readiness:


No matter the college or career, an individual needs to be able to communicate clearly and effectively. Both verbal and written communication is crucial to the success of students in college classrooms, and those skills become even more important in the working world. Honing communication skills is perhaps one of the most important facets of success after high school.

  • Reading and Writing: From the local newspaper to a bestselling novel, history textbooks to online blogs, reading a variety of materials opens up the mind to new ideas, connects previous knowledge to current events, and helps to grow vocabulary. It supports critical thinking and analytical skills, two strengths needed to be successful in all subject areas. Writing skills go hand-in-hand with reading comprehension, allowing students to illustrate their learning, explain their opinion, and develop their authentic voice. A student's ability to understand a text and convey their ideas clearly in writing is fundamental in the classroom and in the workforce.

  • Interpersonal Skills: Starting in kindergarten, students are asked to work with a variety of peers and learn how to resolve conflict, cooperate, and strengthen relationships. These interpersonal skills stay with a student throughout their academic and professional careers. Dartmouth College emphasizes the importance of interpersonal skills to its undergraduate and graduate students alike.


From Tesla to Apple, Lin Manuel-Miranda to Girls Who Code, individuals and companies are seizing the chance to think about problem-solving and creativity in intriguing ways. For students to maintain a competitive edge and affect positive change in college and beyond, they need to think outside the box in order to make their mark.

  • Entrepreneurialism: Whether you're a thought-leader in entertainment, technology, fashion, or beyond, individuals can make a difference with their tenacity and desire to disrupt the status quo. Some of the most creative, entrepreneurial people have learned lessons that can be applied to finding success in a college setting or the working world. Entrepreneurial spirit helps an individual to define specific goals, work hard to achieve them, and reminds them not to listen to naysayers along the way.

  • Technology: In today's online world, our ability to collaborate has an infinite number of possibilities. The modern student needs to be familiar with and adept at using digital tools that allow for efficient work and collaboration. Turnitin's podcast, The Written Word, dives into how technology has changed the way we think and write collaboratively and how technology helps to facilitate innovation around the world.

Global Citizenship

We are a global community of thinkers, changemakers, and creators. The internet has allowed this generation of students to come of age in a time where they are instantly connected with others with the touch of a button. This means that to be a responsible global citizen in college and beyond, an individual must understand that they are one piece in a deeply interconnected puzzle. Acting with integrity and striving to understand the needs of others helps young people to find strength and success in our modern-day.

  • Leadership: In order to distinguish themselves on a college campus and in the working world, students need to establish that they are capable of taking risks, working well with others, and working hard to achieve a goal. Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, shared his simple, but powerful model of inspirational leadership in his 2009 TedTalk. By captaining a team, managing a new group project, or offering to take on a challenging task at work, individuals communicate that they are confident and ready to grow.

  • 21st Century Skills: As high schoolers prepare for college and beyond, they will be asked to bring a unique set of skills to an ever-changing global community. From creativity and problem-solving to ideas on how to be a life-long learner, the Global Digital Citizen Foundation offers a list of the top 21st Century Skills it has determined every student needs to be successful in the modern world.

No matter what path an individual takes, the skills, lessons, and perspectives gleaned from these three categories will help them to tackle new challenges and look towards the future. Communication, Innovation, and Global Citizenship are truly three integral aspects of college and career readiness.