Higher Education Values Resilience in Prospective Students

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The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as the process and outcome of successfully adapting to complex or challenging life experiences. A person who displays resilience has the mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility to adjust to internal and external demands. 

Building resilience takes time, strength, and help from the people around you. It also depends on personal behaviors and skills (self-esteem and communication skills) and external things (social support and resources available to you).

Why Resilience is a Desirable Trait in Applicants

How students respond to stress is intrinsically linked with how they will perform academically and react to a myriad of other social and psychological factors. 

For example, a 2011 study found that exhibiting resilience is associated with positive outcomes. Despite the immediate repercussions, individuals who develop strength following adversity have shown long-term favorable psychological outcomes, including greater life satisfaction.

Being a resilient student does not mean not experiencing stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering in the classroom. Within an educational context, colleges and universities view resilience as a set of attitudes and behaviors associated with an individual’s ability to recover from adversity and actively adapt in the face of stress. Overall, resilience has become accepted within the educational community as an essential capacity for a student to thrive fully.

Resilience is essential to helping students manage academic demands to enable positive progress and cope with the pressure of study, work, and life. 

One study identified several ‘internal’ factors, such as optimism, self-efficacy, and psychological well-being, as the most important to developing resilience in young students. Furthermore,  psychological factors linked to student resilience include self-esteem due to its composition of optimism and self-confidence and the subsequent influence of these characteristics on problem-solving and self-efficacy.

Factors that may promote resilience will also have implications for interventions with students experiencing adversity, from common social problems to those explicitly linked to a higher education context.

Experts have begun proposing intervention programs to promote resilience in schools and colleges based on this research on predictive factors. So far, a few existing programs with the same aim have had some success. However, there is still a need for further evidence to guide

and support their development. 

How Students Can Demonstrate Resilience

There are numerous ways students can demonstrate resilience in the classroom. First, remember that resilience is about creating a positive mindset, a willingness to grow, and an ability to learn from setbacks.

In college admissions, many Common App essay prompts ask about ways students have overcome adversity. While not all applicants are great writers, the positioning and tone of an essay can communicate a lot about the writer’s resilience

When evaluating essays, admissions officers should look for evidence of resilience, including optimistic takes on adverse outcomes. One example is what students have learned and how they have adapted, evidence that students are giving themselves agency to impact the situation moving forward, and the attitude that obstacles are a part of achieving success.

Additionally, being resilient means not just celebrating wins and successes. Students should also celebrate their efforts. Notably, praising the process helps students understand that the effort they put in directly correlates to the results they get. 

Research shows that another excellent way students can build resilience is to get involved in campus life. Jumping into a project or movement can help students feel that they’re contributing on a larger scale, allowing them to push through setbacks and remain optimistic about the outcomes. 

And although resilience is seen as an individual attribute and related to growth from previous personal experience, the most resilient students associate with other resilient people. Community groups, teams, clubs, etc., all consist of resilient people who teach others to be the best version of themselves. 

Televangelist, theologian, speaker, and author Joel Osteen once said: “You need to associate with people that inspire you, people that challenge you to rise higher, people that make you better. Don’t waste your valuable time with people that are not adding to your growth. Your destiny is too important.”

Higher education sees resilience as a valuable trait in students because it is intrinsically linked with how they perform academically and respond to various other social and psychological factors.


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