More students leave college or university because of disillusionment, discouragement, or reduced motivation than leave due to low ability or dismissal by school administration (Clifton & Anderson, 2001).

Portrait of woman crying



Higher Education has changed dramatically since I went to college. Extraordinary diversity abounds. Part time and online learning is the norm. Technology has forever altered the nature of education. Changing workplace challenges exist and higher education must respond to the needs of a global marketplace. Stress and competition are omnipresent.

In 1970,  23% of 23 year olds had completed a BA, and 51% had enrolled in some higher ed since their high school graduation.

In 1999, the 67% of 23 year olds had enrolled in some post-secondary education,  but only 24% of these students completed their programs.

Today, 75% of high school graduates enter post-secondary education, but the graduation rates have not changed much.

According to a study published in the NYTimes (9/8/14),  many colleges in the US have made significant commitments to enroll low to middle income students in greater numbers. Access to college has increased but much less attention is paid to ” degree attainment” or whether these same students are able to graduate and how much time it takes them to do so.

It seems that preparation for higher ed has not kept up with access.  Less than half of students entering college have experienced a college-prep HS program, and less than 40% of HS teachers expect work suitable for college bound students. 53% of students in college take remedial courses, and students who take remedial courses are the least likely to stay in school.

For many students, college is  a “revolving door”  (AAU & C, 2002). revolving door

Only 58% of students graduate from 4-year BA programs in even 6 years. Only 29% of first-time students in two-year AA or certificate programs graduate in even 3 years.

Many students enter and then leave post-secondary education without success, or if they stay, they fail to thrive. They lack not only the academic, problem solving, and critical thinking skills necessary for success, but also the attitudes and grit required to surmount obstacles, the resilience necessary to overcome adversity.



EQ can be a key factor in developing the academic and social competencies that are vital for student success in higher education.

In the Graduating EQ: Strategies for SEL in Higher Ed, we talked about our hopes and dreams for students, and the skills that we believe students need to be successful. We noted help seeking, time management, organizational ability, a willingness to make mistakes, a sense of purpose, self-efficacy, grit, flexibility, agility, and an ability to take responsibility for one’s actions.

How do these skills and attitudes develop?

Many educational leaders and faculty around the world increasingly believe that EQ competencies are critical for helping college and graduate students, young and old, to succeed and thrive.  In the webinar, participants shared detailed examples of how they have incorporated EQ into undergraduate, graduate and professional schools’  syllabi, and into coaching and mentoring,  teamwork, faculty and staff workshops, student remediation, mentoring, career development, and induction models.  As we talked, we discovered a commonality between the types of strategies used across different settings and designs of programs.  Several participants noted their use of assessments such as the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence assessment (SEI) and the Team Vital Signs (TVS) assessment, which helped participants imagine a method for tracking growth in EQ competencies, teamwork,  and success factors.

Attendees confirmed from their own experience what Higher Education faculty and administrators in many fields and disciplines have begun to realize:  the value of emotional intelligence is indisputable, and  EQ is  flourishing in higher education on a global scale.

Some EQ competencies necessary for students in Higher Ed settings: Very Diverse Group of Students

Optimism: Researchers have found that optimistic college students are more likely to stay in school. Optimism helps students imagine positive outcomes, persist in reaching their goals, and deal with stressors effectively (Ness, Evans,& Segerstrom, 2009).

Empathy: Researchers at the U of MI report that empathy has decreased by 40% among college students since 1979.  We know that empathy helps students to see others’ perspectives, resolve conflicts, engage in healthy debate, and deepen relationships.

Navigating Emotions: When students at any level become frustrated or confused by academic challenges, relational conflicts, or situational distress, they must learn how to persevere . . . If students do not learn to navigate their emotions, their focus will not be available for academic learning. College students, as much as Primary and Secondary students, need a safe classroom and university climate to navigate their emotions and work through their challenges.

 And EQ, of course, is necessary for faculty too: anabel

A few days ago, Dr. Anabel Jensen, Six Seconds founder and Dept. Chair at Notre Dame de Namur University shared with me the many ways she has been able to introduce and utilize EQ at the university, not only for students but, importantly, also for faculty and administration.  Discussing the need for safety and connection before learning can occur, Anabel explained,


“One way to insure safety in the classroom from Kindergarten through the University is for faculty to reflect on and practice EQ competencies.”


You are invited to our newly formed project: Graduating EQ: Strategies for Higher Ed. Within this group, we will continue to share resources, curriculum, activities, and suggestions, and inspire each other to take the next steps for EQ in our own higher education settings. 

Please join us on! The fun has just begun! 

Dr. Susan Stillman

Director of Education, Six Seconds' Global Office: With years of experience as an educational leader, scholar-practitioner, K-12 school counselor, and higher ed faculty, Susan brings a diverse background and set of skills to bear on her mission to build and sustain the Six Seconds' educational programs and to support Six Seconds' team members around the world, working to develop EQ in children, educators, families, schools, and communities.

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