Emotional Intelligence Activities for College Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

College students are often under so much academic pressure that it can be easy for them to neglect their emotions. These activities are designed to help college students work on their emotional intelligence.

Why Emotional Intelligence for College Students?

Do you work with college students on a regular basis? If so, you know how many academic and extracurricular demands are placed on them all the time. Yet their busy and even stressful academic lives should not lead to the neglect of their emotional well-being. It's really important to work on emotional intelligence with college students. Emotional intelligence refers to a person's ability to understand and articulate his or her own feelings as well as those of others. Someone with emotional intelligence has good self-regulation skills and is able to empathize with other people's challenging experiences. Working on emotional intelligence with college students can help them learn to manage stress and respond to peer pressure in healthy ways. Emotional intelligence will also help college students feel confident about advocating for their own needs and help them understand complicated social and workplace scenarios. The activities in this lesson are designed to help build college students' emotional intelligence.


A very important emotional intelligence skill to work on is becoming able to discern your own perspective from that of someone else. Often, people speak in broad generalizations, implying that if they think something, everyone else must think it, too. This activity will help college students articulate their own points of view and see how others might or might not think and feel differently.

In a group of college students, raise an issue that's of interest on campus. For instance, you can start a conversation about fraternity/sorority life or about academic integrity. Ask students to talk casually about this issue for five minutes. Then, ask them to stop and jot in a journal about their own point of view on the topics that have been raised. Start the conversation again, but this time offer a rule: you may only speak from your own experience. Teach students to make 'I-statements,' or sentences that begin with 'I think' or 'I feel.' After students talk for another five or ten minutes, ask them to reflect on what feels different about being challenged to think and speak only for themselves. Does this feel natural to them? How is it challenging to articulate their own specific point of view? What do they notice about how others do or don't think and feel differently? Encourage students to use more I-statements in their daily interactions. At the same time, help them reflect on how listening to I-statements helps them understand and respond to others better.

I'm the Kind of Person who...

College students are ready to begin understanding that there are emotional patterns and people sometimes respond to tricky situations according to these patterns. Ask students to listen to the following statements and consider whether or not they are true:

  • I'm the kind of person who likes to watch for a long time before joining in.
  • I'm the kind of person who takes a lot of risks.
  • I'm the kind of person who likes to come up with solutions for problems.
  • I'm the kind of person who likes to think about problems for a long time; I don't necessarily need a solution.

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