If you are putting together college applications – or job applications – you are likely seeing many mentions of “communication skills” or “interpersonal skills.” Effective communication essentially means learning the necessary skills to get messages across quickly and efficiently, often with support from modern technology. Interpersonal skills, also known as social skills, make conversations feel more authentic, enabling you to connect with people at a deeper emotional level.
Developing strong communication skills involves being able to send and receive information by actively listening during group discussions, speaking in public, and providing constructive feedback. Building interpersonal skills is an important part of both personal and professional success, as it involves being able to effectively interact and work with other people. The courses you take throughout your university degree program and the experiences you have on campus are great opportunities to improve how you share ideas and information in the classroom, workplace, and social situations.
Let’s take a look at how communication skills will influence your academic and professional journeys, and what you can do to build different types of communication skills.
How to Build Good Communication Skills in the Classroom
Most US universities prepare their graduates for future career success through well-structured communication skills-based training that’s fully incorporated into nearly every curricula. From language courses to work-study programs, universities provide training and resources so students can communicate effectively with faculty and peers.
Building well-rounded speaking skills helps you present your thoughts and ideas clearly and work with students from different cultures and backgrounds. By participating in classroom discussions and collaborative research projects, you’ll also build leadership skills at the same time.
Beyond speaking and writing (and practicing your English), here are several additional ways you can improve your communication skills while at university.
1. Studying a Communication Skills-Based Curriculum
Degree programs in US universities encourage student engagement and peer-to-peer communication through activities such as classroom discussions, debates, group activities, and question-and-answer sessions. These opportunities give students the chance to express their thoughts and share new perspectives while also developing in-demand interpersonal skills and group problem-solving capabilities.
Many US universities provide communication skills-based training as part of their core curriculum, while others provide communications courses as specialized electives. If taken as a course, the communication skills component usually carries a 3-4 credit hour value (varying by university) which contributes to your graduation credit requirements.
2. Working on Collaborative Projects and Assignments
There are many university projects and assignments that prioritize communication and interpersonal skills such as collaboration and teamwork. During your program, you may have to work with students from diverse backgrounds, each with their own perspectives, work ethics, and language skills. Knowing how to manage work on a team inclusively while communicating project ideas and solutions clearly is important for producing valuable results.
Most programs at a US university also require students to complete a mandatory internship or capstone project. Through these opportunities, you can also improve your speaking skills, learn from different viewpoints, and build teamwork skills that prepare you for your future career.
3. Communicating with Professors
Classrooms in the US create an environment of mutual trust and respect, where you can feel comfortable expressing your thoughts, concerns, and questions freely. From answering questions about subject material and assignments to offering advice for studying and extra resources, your professors aim to make sure all your questions are answered and that you have the support you need to thrive.
Interacting with other students and your professors is a good way to build interpersonal communication skills, which can also give you the confidence to present ideas in the classroom. When starting life on campus, being able to ask questions clearly and knowing the right people to speak to can also help you organize your class schedule and get a handle on student life in the US.
Here’s a look at how building these important interpersonal skills can improve your study abroad experience.
How to Build Good Communication Skills on Campus
When you’re on campus, you’re going to have so many opportunities to practice your communication and interpersonal skills. Here are some opportunities – beyond the classroom – where you’ll learn and polish your communication:
Living with a Roommate
Many first-year international students choose to live with a roommate: It reduces your overall cost-of-living and is also a great way to start making friends when you arrive. Living with a roommate is a good way for you to practice your speaking skills, improve your vocabulary and pronunciation, and get more comfortable talking to new people.
Since you will be living with them, it is also important to communicate your expectations right at the beginning to start out on a positive note. This can mean discussing study habits, personal preferences (e.g., noise levels, visitors, etc.), shared items and spaces, and overall neatness.
Communication is also the key to getting along with your roommate in the long term. Whether there’s a family emergency, health issue, an upcoming exam, or you just need someone to talk to, talking about your feelings can help them understand and support you (and vice versa).
Participating in Student Clubs and Professional Associations
Clubs and societies on campus can be a great way to get involved in activities, meet new people, and share knowledge. Most campuses also run communications-specific clubs where you can improve your public speaking and collaboration skills, such as news and media groups, radio associations, public relations student societies, and more.
Toastmasters is also a popular option among many students interested in improving their interpersonal skills and personal expression capabilities. It’s a nonprofit education organization that provides an international network of online and in-person clubs that teach students public speaking and communication in the workplace. By joining these sessions, students can work toward improving their presentation skills, mentor other students, and grow their careers through industry networking events with other Toastmasters groups.
Maintaining Student Work-Life Balance
University life in the US is an exciting experience because of all the new things to try out and explore, but it is important to balance your studies and your personal time. With good communication, you can set your boundaries and prepare well-planned schedules to complete your coursework while also allowing room for fun.
Talking to a student counselor or your fellow students can give you a better idea of how to manage your time on campus. For instance, if you want to take up a sport while also pursuing your full-time studies, you can speak to a student advisor for guidance on how to manage your course schedule and pick dates for sports practices. Talking to students and seniors, on the other hand, may offer even better insights into student life and activities happening in and around campus.
While student life at a US university gives you the opportunity to brush up your interpersonal and communication skills, getting an internship or job lets you build these skills in a professional environment. Here are a few ways in which good communication skills can set your professional goals into motion.
How to Build Good Communication Skills at Work
By communicating effectively in the workplace, you can establish strong work relationships with other employees and managers as you work toward the organization’s goals. According to the Harris Poll’s State of Business Communication report, 72% of business leaders believe that effective communication has contributed to their team’s productivity, while 60% of them believe it has increased employee confidence. Forbes also lists empathetic listening and modern communication among the top five skills that employers look for in potential candidates.
While you can develop strong communication and interpersonal skills at university, workplaces also offer unique opportunities to build up these skills in a more professional setting. Let’s explore some ways you can improve your communication strategies at work.
Working with People from Different Backgrounds
Working in the US can be a great opportunity to experience an inclusive professional environment that celebrates diversity and multicultural perspectives. You can meet, work with, and learn from people from around the world, while getting a first-hand look at innovative ideas and business strategies. Good communication and interpersonal skills are the keys to positive work outcomes at these global workplaces, as they help bridge cultural differences and improve your ability to work in teams.
At university, communication classes with a cross-cultural component can prepare you for your future career by giving you the opportunity to interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Since most US universities are home to many international students, you can also build connections and develop your interpersonal skills while studying on campus.
Meeting Managerial Expectations
To succeed in your future job role, you need well-developed interpersonal and communication skills to cooperate with your coworkers, achieve project goals, and meet your managers’ expectations. For example, when you get assigned to a new project, it will be important for you to learn more about the project, the tasks you will be doing, and the goals you need to achieve. Clear communications with project leaders and your teammates will provide clarity on your responsibilities, company culture, and more.
Communications courses at US universities prepare you for workplace communication by creating simulated environments where you can put your skills to the test. Many of these courses include mock client tasks, group presentations, and question-and-answer sessions, which can familiarize you with professional communications.
Creating Effective Presentations and Deliverables
Communications courses can also teach you how to create well-structured presentations and reports similar to what you may see in the workplace. These courses can equip you with effective communication skills needed for preparing project proposals, brainstorming with other members, setting clear objectives, listening to your team’s feedback, and keeping everyone updated with follow-ups.
Developing strong workplace communication and interpersonal skills will allow you to cooperate more effectively with your team and prepare for projects, presentations, and more. Shorelight universities offer focused communication skills-based training programs to support you in developing these skills and prepare you for success in your future career.
Shorelight Courses to Improve Student Communication Skills
From writing papers and giving group presentations to preparing for a job interview and starting a new role, having good communication skills is key to getting your ideas and messages across. Here are some programs offered through Shorelight universities that can help you improve your speaking skills.
Oral Communication (COMM-100) at Bridgewater College in Virginia is a core subject of the general education curriculum designed to prepare you for your degree program and professional career. The course equips you with different types of communication skills in formal and informal presentation, persuasive and motivational speaking, and visual aid design.
The Oral Communications class takes learning beyond the classroom with a unique opportunity for students to participate in the Academic Citizenship Program and share conversations about a variety of world issues. Students can also take part in the Big Question Public Speaking Competition and find solutions to critical world problems.
Holy Cross College at Notre Dame
The core curriculum at Holy Cross College at Notre Dame in Indiana focuses on building students’ critical communication skills. Through the global seminar and common good seminar, internships, and capstone projects, students are encouraged to interact with their professors, peers, and community while proposing solutions to real-world challenges.
The liberal arts program aims to create true scholars out of its students by encouraging them to think critically, explore a variety of subjects, and share their knowledge through group communication. To encourage intellectual debate, students are given the chance to take part in small-sized classroom discussions and share their thoughts on books and new ideas.
University of Wyoming
The communications courses (also known as the USP communication sequence) at the University of Wyoming provide multiple practice and feedback sessions to guide students toward understanding how to critically analyze, present findings, and deliver in-person and video-based presentations.
Students can look forward to developing their written, oral, and digital communication skills from introductory to advanced levels over the course of the sequence. While the introductory course (COM1) emphasizes foundational skills for academic writing, the intermediate course (COM2) focuses more on building oral and digital communication skills. During the advanced course (COM3), written, oral, and digital presentation skills are combined to give students a well-rounded understanding of professional communications and communication strategies.
Shorelight also offers exclusive career development services, such as Career Premium, which you can leverage to improve your interpersonal and communication skills while you study.
Shorelight’s Career Premium
Shorelight’s Career Premium is a 16-week career development program designed for students to learn in-demand skills, grow their portfolio through skill certificates, and gain real-world work experience through virtual internships. Access specialized professional bootcamps and training from career coaches and industry experts as you build upon the speaking skills you have learned in class by applying them to real-life work projects.
When you can communicate well, you can go anywhere. Ready to take your communication and interpersonal skills to the next level? Discover recognized communications programs at top universities in the US that will support your learning as you work toward your degree and help you to stand out to potential employers!