Executive Functioning Skills for All

On the road to college, organization is paramount. Throughout a student’s academic career organizing school work, academic activities, extracurriculars, and life in general is an exercise through which many students must ultimately learn to become increasingly independent over time. In supporting this pursuit, we have found that those best able to manage the complexities of student life incorporate the very best of executive functioning skills. These students tend to be the most efficient, disciplined, and focused, with the result of optimized grades and test scores. Decades of research have supported these findings, illustrating the positive impact that key skills such as task prioritization, organization, planning, time management, and more have on improving the outcomes of underperforming students.

Staying organized helps avoid chaos. (Photo by Brett Jordan unsplash.com)

Our work has found something even more remarkable. Supporting students of all learning profiles, we have found that those with learning difficulties also benefit from the increased scaffolding and routine that developed executive functioning skills provide. Even students with already high-performance levels benefit greatly from the improved efficiency with which these skill sets allow them to then produce these same results. No matter your student’s learning profile, as they near the end of high school and begin to formally engage with the college application process, this additional work often exposes weakness in students’ underlying foundation of study skills and routines. This can make it difficult for those unequipped with the right skill sets to maintain pre-existing levels of academic performance and will certainly result in increased stress.

Incorporating study skills and academic enrichment into college planning helps students not just get accepted to a particular school, but also persist and succeed at that institution. Increasingly, we are seeing college planning as an activity through which students must look certainly outward to the formal deadlines and to-do lists of required tasks, but also look inward to understand the decisions they are making and how their current mindset, focus, motivation, and routines may support, or inhibit, their ability to find and thrive at a best-fitting college.

We strongly recommend incorporating executive functioning skills, such as planning, prioritization, organization, and more, into the life of the prospective college student to not only ensure success in the application process, but more importantly to prepare students to navigate and perform efficiently in college.

The work does not end with an admission letter. Rather, that piece of paper simply signifies a new waypoint on the larger road through college.

Tony Di Giacomo Ph.D.is an educator and founder of Novella Prep. He has 20 years of university experience in admissions, development, teaching, and research. Contact him at tony@novellaprep.com

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About the Author: Tony Di Giacomo, Ph.D.