Overlooked College Prep Skills: Mindfulness and Executive Functioning

By Marty McGreevy, MS.Ed

When you think of preparing for life after high school your mind probably goes to standardized tests, college visits, college applications, and resumés. While those are important pieces of the puzzle, two skills are often overlooked: mindfulness and executive functioning.  

Are you Mindful? Or is Your Mind Full? 

In today’s ever-changing and fast-paced world, the concept of being in the present moment and practicing mindfulness has never been more important. This is especially true as it relates to young adults as they enter the college/post-secondary environment. Paying close attention to skills related to brain-body connection, staying in the present moment, and sharpening executive functioning skills is paramount to the overall success, confidence, and development of our students.  

Mindfulness is the psychological process of purposefully bringing one’s attention to the present moment, experiencing life in the here and now without judgment. The question is, how does one become so enlightened? There are many ways to practice mindfulness, such as deep breathing exercises, creative writing, and journaling techniques, intention and goal setting, as well as several different forms of meditation. We want to focus on students’ academic, social, emotional, and physical/sensory needs as we navigate these topics. Using sources of inspiration, such as art and music can also help students reduce stress and quiet their minds. Integrating these modalities into daily health practices can help with stress reduction, general wellness, and self-preservation. Maintaining a healthy school/life balance is essential to then achieve academic success 

Back to the Basics  

Academic status and grades frequently become the main focus as it relates to performance in high school and college. It is important to note that to be successful in school and carry out all necessary executive functioning tasks daily, one must be of sound mind and body to perform optimally. Basic needs such as a balanced diet, consistent exercise, daily hydration, adhering to medication protocols, as well as a healthy sleep cycle, all play important roles in establishing a healthy student. It can be overwhelming for young adults who are away from home for the first time left to manage their own personal, social, and academic schedules. It is important we work on these wellness and executive functioning skillbefore they “leave the nest.”  

Generally speaking, support for students’ academic and executive functioning needs can happen with consistent and thorough communication with faculty, on-campus help centers, and disability coordinators. Self-advocacy is paramount in letting your specific college or university know what you need to be set up for success in the classroom as well as residence life. Students may be reluctant to seek help for day-to-day independent living skills so discussing this process now in a safe space with a Post-Secondary Counselor is a great way to start preparing them for college, gap year, or general independent living.  

Awareness is Key 

Awareness about mindfulness and stress management is the first step towards creating more consistent healthy habits. By the time a student is ready to be on his or her own at college, they should be confident in their ability to take care of themselves. They should know their body, the way they perceive the world, and what type of learner they are. Independence does not develop overnight, and students must first want to become more self-reliant. By starting out discussing personal, independent living and academic goals with your student in high school they can see the benefits of working hard to achieve independence. In my work as a Post-Secondary Counselor at Fusion, I’m able to help students not only build their top schools list and work on essays but also equip them with tools and skills that will help them in college and beyond. In one-to-one personalized sessions, we focus on what’s best for them and their goals. 

The world certainly is not going to slow down anytime soon, however, we can make the conscious choice to slow our minds down and strive to be the best and most authentic version of ourselves we can be. The goal is progress, not perfection.  

About the Author


Post-Secondary Counselor

Marty McGreevy, MS.Ed.is a Post-Secondary Counselor at Fusion Academy Westchester. He supports students and families with the college/Gap Year, technical and vocational program application process, admissions testing prep, supporting detailed college searches, planning campus visits, interview skills, and college essay writing to name a few areas. PSC sessions can include a full college readiness curriculum designed to meet each student’s college and post-secondary goals. Marty also teaches English Literature and Language Arts. He graduated from Providence College with a degree in Business/Liberal Arts studies, and also has his Master’s degree in Special Education from The University of Vermont.

Prior to Fusion Marty worked in the mental health/education field for ten years teaching and coaching at the high school and post-secondary levels. He has worked with high school and college students on executive functioning development, stress management and mindfulness strategies as well as academics; with a concentration in English literature and the writing process. His passion for creating a sense of belonging and independence with his students is a main focus to his teaching. He looks forward to inspiring his Fusion students to think for themselves and be creative!

Outside of Fusion Marty loves to spend time with his family. He enjoys skiing, the outdoors, and is a big music fan, as well as a percussion drummer. He also loves watching The New York Football Giants and his Providence Friars basketball team!