university president, college president, flexibility, expertise, adaptability, leadership, COVID-19, increased stress


The purpose of this study was to investigate the skills and competencies needed for candidates to be hired as a college or university president before the age of 40. Using a phenomenological approach, participants who first obtained the position as a college or university president before 40 were interviewed. Using Clark’s model of professional competencies as a conceptual framework, four themes were identified from the results. The themes include little to no mentoring at all, learn by either sinking or swimming; being in the right place, at the right time, with the right credentials; having the right education and experience matter for candidates seeking a college or a university president position; and having the interpersonal skills and the ability to work with others. The results of this study will help those seeking to acquire a position as a college or university president while under the age of 40 and for all others to better prepare future leaders in higher education.