Why is critical and creative thinking important to student success?

meera01Meera Patel
Senior, Economics and International Studies

“Critical thinkers go beyond memorization of facts. NC State has already prepared me for thinking critically because of the specific professors that I chose. Students have a tendency to try to make their lives easier, but that isn’t the way to develop and grow as a person. You need to learn to think differently and apply what you learn. I am interested in combining perspectives from both international studies and economics in order to approach conflicts in a new way. Employers will know that I am a critical thinker through my writing samples because how I articulate myself shows how I think.”


Critical and creative thinking are the keys to work and economic prosperity in the twenty-first century. There is a long-term trend away from routine-oriented work, which requires people to do the same things every day, and toward creativity-oriented jobs that ask people to engage in analysis and to make judgments. The creative class includes people whose work it is to create new forms (for example, writers, engineers, and designers) and people who work in a wide range of knowledge-intensive industries that ask them to make critical and creative decisions about specific problems in their fields. Successful universities in the twenty-first century will be those that educate graduates who contribute to a critical and creative workforce.

NC State faculty, therefore, believe that developing students’ critical and creative thinking skills are among the highest priorities of a college education. They describe knowing when it is appropriate to take intellectual risks, being decisive, and learning from failure as essential to critical and creative thinking. And while faculty think the curriculum should ask students to think critically and creatively throughout their studies, they emphasize the importance for freshmen to begin under high expectations for critical and creative thinking.