Success in College: Enhancing Problem-Solving, Metacognition, Self-Determination & Time Management Skills

As students embark on their college journey, they will encounter a multitude of challenges and responsibilities beyond academics that will determine their college success.

In last week’s article, guest writer Stephanie Mitchell discussed the importance of students’ self-awareness, self-advocacy, motivation and resilience, and self-regulation.

This week she continues to provide insight into the skills college students need to confidently tackle obstacles, make informed decisions, set and pursue meaningful goals, and effectively manage their time and resources.

Join us as we uncover the foundations for college success and empower students to excel in their educational pursuits and beyond.


Not everything goes according to plan.

Students need to have the ability to solve problems for themselves through self-awareness, self-advocacy as well as the ability to think flexibly, creatively, and critically.

Problem-solving requires awareness of the different campus departments and an understanding of what each one of them does. They need to know which adults can support them in righting the path when unexpected things happen.

Problem-solving is relied upon many times a day during a college student’s life – from issues that range from micro problems to major inconveniences.


Metacognition is the process of thinking about your thinking through active self-reflection.

Students need to possess strong metacognitive skills to help them reflect on their learning and experiences. It is employed to communicate, problem-solve, and make decisions.

Metacognition helps to identify and apply appropriate learning strategies aligned with the task at hand, seek clarification, self-reflect, disrupt old patterns, and think flexibly and critically.


Self-determination is a person’s ability to set appropriate goals and expectations for themselves based on their understanding of their own needs, interests, and abilities.

This helps students to make choices and plans that will enable them to reach their goals. Self-determined students take action in pursuit of their goals and can either change course or make adjustments to achieve them.

Additionally, they can function more independently as they are actively thinking about what they are doing and why. They have a vision for the future and make decisions that will help them get there.

Time Management for College Success

Finally, a word about time management. This skill cannot be underestimated when it comes to students independently managing their lives in college.

Students need to effectively manage their time with consideration for their academic, social, self-care, and transportation needs.

One major difference between high school and college is that college students spend much less time in the classroom compared to high school students. As a result, students are responsible for learning a significant amount of content through extensive reading and other assignments that are done outside of class.

This requires them to have the ability to independently structure and manage free time to balance their ability to complete lengthy assignments, engage in social life, find time to exercise and attend to other needs.

It also makes it necessary for students to manage their responsibilities independently including handing assignments in and arriving to class on time, accurately judging how long tasks will take them, and making and keeping appointments.

Students who develop and internalize these characteristics can experience a smoother and more successful transition to college. Identifying and strengthening these characteristics can reduce unexpected situations and empower students to become active participants in their education. Preparing for this important shift through raising awareness of how things will change once they have made the transition to college life as well as thoughtful, targeted skill development will further help to ensure success.

About Stephanie
Stephanie Mitchell is an Independent Educational Consultant and owner of Grapevine Educational Consulting.

Her specialty is aiding students with learning differences in finding appropriate post-secondary options through a comprehensive and individualized process. S

She has spent over 15 years successfully placing students in colleges, as well as comprehensive support, transition, and gap year programs. She is passionate about applying her expertise and personal experience to help parents and students who are embarking on their journey through the post-secondary transition process.

Did you miss these articles?

A Guide to Surviving College for Students with ADD/ADHD and Executive Function Challenges: Part 1. Planning

A Guide to Surviving College for Students with ADD/ADHD: Part 2. How to Develop Executive Functions

A Guide to Surviving College for Students with ADD/ADHD: The Importance of Note-Taking and Study Skills [need link]

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Making the Transition to College: Characteristics and Skills That Are Critical to Success, part 2
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