6 Essential Life Skills You Need to Learn Before Going to College

students taking exam

Far too many of us are focused on bulking up our resumés. We volunteer. We study. Can you believe that the things you do these past couple of years have an impact on your college future? If you want to attend some prestigious colleges and universities, you have to compete with the best students this country has produced. That even includes foreigners, children of expatriates and diplomats, and those who came specifically to Singapore because they believed in the quality of education here.

But as your parents will probably tell you, success in college is not only defined by what you achieve academically. Your development as a person needs to be holistic. You need to learn how to socialize, build a network, and of course, live on your own. Although Singapore is a small city-state, college students still tend to live in dorms or apartments near the university to experience that college life everyone seems to be raving about.

How’s College Life?

College life is more than what you see in movies, however. What these movies fail to show is that you have to deal with laundry, plan your meals, budget money, and study at the same time. It’s not just about the social life you can get to experience on campus.

It’s a far cry from the life students were used to when they were still attending international secondary schools in Singapore. There, although competition is tough, student life is more structured. In college, you are free to do as you wish as long as you can face the consequences of not meeting deadlines and not participating in group projects. That’s why aside from your academic discipline, these are the essential skills you need to learn before your freshman year:

Time Management

Are you going to work and study at the same time? In college, your mom won’t be waking you up to show up in class. No one is going to remind you to study for midterms. Since you’re living far from your home, the only communication you’ll have with your parents is the scheduled FaceTime call every morning or evening. Apart from that, you’re on your own. You need to manage your time well if you will study, work, socialize, and attend to your personal responsibilities at the same time.

Goal Setting

Too many people don’t know how to set goals and achieve them. Write down your goals and break them down into smaller and achievable steps. You will see your progress better if you can identify your long- and short-term goals. If your goal is to finish college in less than four years, write down a plan on how you’re going to achieve that. For example, that means foregoing summer and taking more units while everyone is on break.

Roommate Etiquette

Unless you are willing to shoulder the $500 per month expenses of having your own room, you will most likely share a room with someone else. If you are going to live in the student dorms, this is how the setup goes. Make sure to work with your roommate about a few basic rules. You should also clean after yourself and respect each other’s privacy and belongings.

student holding books and binder in campus

Communication Skills

You’ll have to deal with a lot of people while you are in college—professors, students, teaching assistants, hallmates, landlords, and coworkers. The best way to develop your communication skills is through social interaction. You have to learn about nuances in facial expression and body language. That will help you “read the room” as many people say. These skills will also help you later in life when you join the workforce.


Joining social and academic clubs will help you start building your network. You may think it is not yet important now as you haven’t joined the workforce yet, but starting this early will get you ahead. Familiarize yourself with professional social media sites such as LinkedIn. This will help get in touch with experts in your industry. You can even apply for a summer internship through LinkedIn.


College students are on a perennially tight budget. Unless you are swimming in old money, you will likely have to make ends meet. You should learn how to prioritize your expenses and not spend more than you should. Write down your expenses every day. At the end of the month, identify the items that you should not spend on again because they break the bank.

College is one of the most exhilarating experiences of your life. You’ll remember your college days until you are old and gray. But it’s not just about having fun and learning. It’s also about learning how to live and preparing for the next chapter of your life.


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