Introducing the Three “C”s: College, Career, and Civic Readiness to Build a Successful Life

A THINKING PRO Blog Series (1/5)

· College Readiness,Career Readiness,Civic Readiness,Thinking Pro News

Critical thinking is important to many aspects of our lives. Often, critical thinking is considered only in the context of academia. But an understanding of how to consider, evaluate, analyze, and ultimately solve problems -- in short, the ability to think critically -- is an important way beyond school test problems.

But just what is “critical thinking”? It’s a term thrown around a lot in school classrooms, often without much definition or direct discussion. In fairness, it’s a bit hard to define. Thinking critically starts with approaching problems creatively. It involves carefully assessing the relevant information that is available, and evaluating arguments and opinions. This requires a significant level of reading literacy: “understanding, using and reflecting on written texts, in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate in society.” All these elements eventually lead thinkers to answers, decisions, and solutions. Critical thinking is a universal skill, transferrable to all manner of contexts. That’s why the ability to think critically is key to our success in college, in careers, and in our civic responsibilities.

So what do each of these three “C”s represent? The first, college readiness, is a phrase that is commonly discussed in the realm of educational theory. The Center for College Readiness at Rice University defines it aptly as the ability of a student to “enter a college classroom, without remediation, and successfully complete entry-level college requirements.” Making sure our graduating high school students are prepared for college is the topic of much debate and contention among parents and guidance counselors alike.

The next “C” represents career readiness. This is a bit harder to quantify or objectively describe, but its essence is easy to grasp. Someone who is career-ready possesses the intellect, the technical skills, the confidence, and the discipline to enter their chosen professional field and succeed in the workforce. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), graduating seniors and employers agree on the importance of critical thinking, communication, and teamwork for young adults entering the workforce. While career readiness may build upon college readiness, it’s also important to those who start a career without a college degree.

The last “C” is not as readily apparent to most people. It refers to civic readiness, and encompasses our roles and responsibilities outside of school and the workplace. These include voting, volunteering, supporting charities and nonprofits, and playing active roles in our communities. And although it’s not discussed as often as college and career readiness, it’s been around for much longer, and is more universally relevant than its counterparts.

When we understand and regularly practice critical thinking, it becomes a powerful tool for success in all areas of our lives. At Thinking Habitats, we equip individuals with effective thinking tools and strategies to thrive in life. In the upcoming blog series, we will explore these crucial aspects—college readiness, career readiness, and civic readiness—and delve into how critical thinking can help us succeed in each of them.



National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Recruiters and students have different perspectives of new grad proficiency in competencies. Accessed 22 May 2023 from:

Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Pisa 2015 draft reading framework. Accessed 13 October 2016 from

RICE University Center for College Readiness. What is College Readiness? Accessed 13 October 2016 from