Five benefits of social-emotional learning in college (with examples)

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is widely researched and used in primary and secondary education, but it’s recently gained more traction in higher education too. And for good reason. Competencies related to SEL – like responsible decision-making and interpersonal skills – can set students apart as they prepare for the modern work environment.

In the previous blog post, Social-emotional learning in college is crucial to career success, we learned that the US job market is much more changeable than in previous years. On top of that, a recent McKinsey report found that social-emotional skills have become increasingly difficult to build because people have less face-to-face interactions than ever before. To help students truly succeed beyond their college years, institutional leaders must prioritize SEL at the institutional level. Here are five benefits of incorporating SEL into college campuses and classrooms, with examples:

  1. SEL boosts students’ emotional intelligence. 

Also known as EQ, emotional intelligence includes the ability to have self-awareness and regulate emotions. EQ is marked by an ability to “read the room” and react accordingly – an important skill when working alongside a diverse array of people. Here are some examples of how educators can help boost college students’ EQ:

  • Include role-playing scenarios to allow students to practice empathy and interpersonal communication skills in a simulated real-world setting
  • Invite guest speakers from applicable industries to share insights on the importance of emotional intelligence in professional success


  1. SEL demonstrates what a supportive environment looks like. 

Whether at school or work, it’s important to work with a group of peers and leaders who support one another. Even in the midst of conflict, the way people treat one another impacts productivity, engagement, and success. Here are some examples of how educators can cultivate a supportive learning environment:

  • Ensure that group projects encourage true collaboration and peer support, rather than one student taking on the bulk of the work
  • Leave time during class for mindfulness exercises or inclusive classroom discussions, even if it’s just a few minutes


  1. SEL prepares students for leadership roles. 

Whether or not a student dreams of having a leadership role in the traditional sense, they’ll inevitably be a leader in some way. Whatever roles they eventually take on, students will need to understand the importance of things like empathy, integrity, and social responsibility. Here are some examples of how educators can instill leadership qualities into students:

  • Have students analyze case studies of ethical dilemmas related to the subject they’re studying so they can better understand the complexities of moral reasoning and decision-making
  • Have students identify and create a comprehensive action plan for an area of need within the community. Offer extra credit to students who implement their plan in real life


  1. SEL expands mental health awareness and emotional regulation techniques. 

With more than 60% of college students affected by mental health problems, it’s a top concern for institutional leaders. Here are some examples of how educators can contribute to students’ positive mental health:

  • Pay attention to your own mental health so you can be the best, most understanding version of yourself for your students (keep the “you can’t pour from an empty cup” quote in mind)
  • Display contact information for campus counseling and peer support in the classroom, on your syllabus, and in your discussions


  1. SEL enhances students’ soft skills. 

While technical and academic expertise are undoubtedly valuable, soft skills also play a critical role in student success. In fact, soft skills – like adaptability, critical thinking, empathy, and self-awareness – mirror social-emotional competencies. Here are some examples of how educators can help students expand their soft skills:

  • Model soft skills in your teaching style, such as active listening, flexibility, and kindness
  • Assign self-reflection activities that coincide with the subject matter. For example, journaling, goal setting, and self-assessment exercises can foster self-awareness and personal growth


Next, we’ll include helpful references and research that will help you prioritize SEL on your campus. In the meantime, refer to the following blog posts for more information about student success, social-emotional skills, and more:

Five benefits of social-emotional learning in college (with examples)

Like What You Read? Share It With Others!