The Most Powerful Skill for College: Paying Attention to Detail

By Nichole Ahlstrom, COLL100 Faculty at American Public University

Paying attention to detail is a fundamental skill needed to be successful as a college student. Most students believe that paying attention to detail only pertains to assignments, but it applies much more broadly than that.

Reading the course syllabus is a great way to start every class. This helps you understand course expectations and plan for upcoming assignments as well as view the covered material. Addressing areas of concern with the professor or instructor after reading the syllabus demonstrates that you are paying attention to detail.

Make sure to read all directions and re-read them per assignment or lesson. Students often miss out on key points because they skip over details in assignment instructions. Read over directions carefully and get clarification before an assignment is due.

In most classes, a rubric is offered so students can easily understand the requirements for a particular assignment. This is another perfect opportunity for students to pay attention to detail: the rubric provides the key elements of the assignment.

Planning ahead is another way to pay attention to detail. Students that plan ahead by keeping assignments marked on a calendar can make adjustments when necessary before it is too late. Planning ahead also alleviates anxiety, stress, and feeling ineffective as a student. Professors are eager to help students who are organized, enthusiastic, and on top of the details.

Paying attention to detail takes time, but it is time well spent. Communicating with other students in the course allows for encouragement, support, and clarification. This is a skill that extends beyond the classroom into all areas of life. The details are what matter.

About the Author

Nichole Ahlstrom is an adjunct faculty member who teaches COLL100: Foundations of Online Learning at American Public University. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice Administration and a Master of Science in Psychology from the University of Phoenix. She is currently working on her Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership degree with the University of Phoenix. Nichole lives in Okinawa, Japan with her husband, who is an active duty Marine, and they have two boys. Nichole loves being a mother, spending time with her family, volunteering, exercising, and traveling.

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