Problem Solving

One of the most important things you will need to bring with you to college is a robust set of problem-solving skills. Practical problem-solving skills are essential to be healthy and successful at school and everywhere else. Without them, minor problems can quickly become catastrophic problems, and little disruptions can turn into significant issues with anxiety and depression. 

When intelligent students go to college with insufficient problem-solving skills, one of two things tends to occur:

1. The awareness of potential problems alongside limited ability to solve them creates anxiety

2. Accruing unsolved problems creates learned helplessness and depression.

Although specific circumstances and stakes involved in problem-solving can become very complicated, fundamental problem-solving skills are relatively simple and straightforward. They include a set of sequential steps and three "rules" of behavior. 


Rule #1

How you identify a problem determines whether you think the problem is solvable and what you do to solve it.

Rule #2

No matter who or what causes your problem, YOU are responsible for solving it.

Rule #3

Regardless of how big or small a problem is, problem-solving involves the same sequential steps. 

Whether you need to get an extension on a paper, turn down a date without creating unwanted tension, choose the decor for your dorm room, create study time schedules with your roommate, or decide what you want to do with the rest of your life; problem-solving involves the same five steps.

1. Identify the specific problem

2. Identify potential (realistic) solutions

3. Assess potential solutions and identify your best option

4. Implement solution

5. Assess results and revise as needed

Effective problem solving takes a lot of time, energy, and skill at times. It is also the key to being healthy and successful at school.