College is a huge concept in our society. People start planning for it before their children are born, kids grow up hearing myths about it starting almost in kindergarten, and every day of high school seems geared towards the SAT’s and job readiness. With such high stakes, how is it possible to get through day-to-day life in a way that helps you maximize what you’re getting out of your education?
The biggest goal, obviously, is your degree, and some people may attach other goals to that: Graduate with a 4.0. Make Phi Beta Kappa. Chug an entire keg. Whatever. But when the goal is that big, it’s difficult to come up with smaller goals. That is why I used to use the following framework:
Every term, I would sit down with my advisor. If you don’t have an advisor, sit down with someone you trust: a mentor, a parent, or even your roommate.
- List your biggest goals. Think on the timeline of 4-5 years out, when you will ideally be graduating. Subdivide this list into personal and professional / educational goals.
- List your academic and personal goals for the term. Think about what you want to have accomplished this term. A 4.0? Registering for the LSAT (oh, you poor fool!)? Earning a black belt? Running a half marathon?
- Create a mid-term checkup checklist. Decide on a date (preferably one with no midterm exams or papers due) and sit down with your mentor. They have to be your accountability partner.
- Every week, take 5-10 minutes on Friday afternoon. Write down what you have done that you are proud of and what you have done to achieve your goals. If it’s nothing, be honest. At least write it down.
- At the midterm checkup, ask yourself: Am I doing what I need to do to achieve my goals? Ask your accountability partner: Do you think I could be doing something else / something more? If so, what?
- At the midterm checkup, revise your goals, and add notes as to why. Be really honest, but not hard on yourself. “I realized that I need another term to train for a marathon” is fine, because now you have a new goal. “I bombed the midterm because I was hung-over, so I don’t think I’ll make an A in organic chemistry” is honest. The point of this is to be honest with yourself and develop useful goal-making habits.
Of course this process doesn’t even have to be formal. However, I do think it’s really important to share it with someone else. Sometimes you can be really hard on yourself if you don’t meet your goals. It’s really important to realize that sometimes, changing the goals you make is a more important reflection of your growth than actually achieving the goals. And the point of college, in some ways, should be to grow as a person and understand yourself more.
Keep your goals on the horizon. Work smarter, not harder, and see if any of our friendly professors can help you today.