Over four years in college, eight semesters, around 120 credits, about 32 classes, we come away with more academic intelligence and professional experience — hopefully — than we entered with.
For me, I’ve gained vast knowledge of AP Style rules, bylines in various publications and a polished resume with two internships I landed with the help of my professors, among other things.
As senior year comes to an end, we harness the skills, knowledge and experiences that position us to start our careers.
While this scholastic development is the basis that institutions are built upon, it is not the one I regard with the most importance and pride. I reserve that title for a different kind of intelligence: the emotional kind.
Emotional intelligence, also called EQ, is the ability to perceive, interpret, demonstrate, control, evaluate and use emotions to communicate with and relate to others effectively and constructively. Essentially, it means you can manage your own emotions and understand the emotions of others.
Emotional intelligence is often broken up into four domains: self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness and relationship management.
I believe it is a cornerstone of maturity.
Over those same four years — and the 18 or so leading up to them — with an unquantifiable number of people, days and interactions, many will come away with a deeper understanding of emotion navigation.
A big facet and manifestation of emotional intelligence is effective communication.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made a point of establishing open, honest communication as a pillar of all my relationships. My life has come to revolve around communication — my friends gave me the nickname “Christina Communication,” and I even decided to major in the topic.
That being said, emotional intelligence is not easy to master.
In terms of self-awareness, it has meant realizing I’m in the wrong or acknowledging that I’m in a bad mental space.
In terms of self-management, it has meant putting myself in the vulnerable position of admitting I’m wrong to others and making sure I journal to help fulfill my mental needs.
In terms of social awareness, it has meant having empathy for others and putting them before myself and my own needs sometimes.
In terms of relationship management, it has meant initiating and engaging in difficult conversations with my friends and being a leader to those who are younger than me.
These might seem like simple things in theory — and nothing we haven’t heard before — but all too often I’ve seen people falter in execution.
When we’re younger, we’re taught to ‘treat people how you want to be treated’ — one of our first encounters with self-awareness. Then, we’re taught ‘apologize when you do wrong’ — an exercise in self-regulation and relationship management.
Yet, we lose sight of this when we get older, perhaps because the simplicity of it makes it become an afterthought.
I’ve seen that often in middle school through college, a small conflict or a lack of awareness can lead relationships to end.
To me, emotional intelligence comes down to understanding. It is a challenge to be thoughtful and honest and to communicate those sympathies in words, delivery and behavior. It is a muscle we must continuously work.
As overwhelmed college students who will eventually become overwhelmed adults, we can expect to have some slip-ups. It takes time and work to develop your emotional intelligence, but as long as you are committed to making the effort, you will begin to reap the rewards.
I believe my emotional intelligence has allowed me to build stronger relationships, excel at school and work and achieve my career aspirations.
College, a place for growth and experimentation, provides the perfect opportunity to put these skills to work. Even the smallest of social interactions with your roommates, peers and friends will translate into your abilities to interact with your boss, co-workers and partner.
College is also the last time we’ll be surrounded by people our age like this at all times — living arrangements, classes, leisure, etc. — so if solving a little conflict is a matter of telling someone why you’re upset or taking responsibility for hurting someone’s feelings, you and your relationships will be better because of it.