Whether you’re a high school student planning for the future or a determined freshman calculating your way to success, goals surrounding college are vital to making the most of those two or more years of your life.
You may find yourself considering your college goals only to realize that you have no idea where to begin or what your goals should even encompass.
Don’t fret – that’s where I come in.
Although the phrase “personal goals” gives off a do-it-yourself kind of vibe, it’s never a bad thing to seek guidance. In fact, it’s a very wise move to look to those with more experience and worldly knowledge when determining your college goals.
Set your worry aside for a few minutes to read about some helpful tips, motivators, and ideas about your college goals.
High School Students: Where to Begin
The first step to figuring out your college goals may be to actually get into the college of your choice – or at least one of them. This can seem like a daunting task all on its own, but it doesn’t have to be.
Right now, if you’re currently a high school student, you know that college is looming ahead of you. For those of you working towards a college education, there’s a lot of pressure. You have to keep your grades up, but you also have to do extra work to get good marks on your standardized testing.
But, that’s not all – because what college likes a student who’s all work and no play? Make sure you keep your extracurriculars plentiful. Play sports, join a club, volunteer – all this, and there’s a good chance you have a part-time job to start saving for a car, or better yet, your tuition deposit.
When you think about your road to college like we just did above, you may feel yourself start to panic a little. It’s true – the world asks a lot of high school students. And that’s why it’s important for you to set college goals.
Rather than lumping all of your needs into one giant, overwhelming to-do list, organizing them into strategic goals will help ease the stress and make everything much more manageable. Let’s look at the steps you can take as a high school student to organize your college goals.
Do You Want to Go to College?
In many families and social circles, it’s often assumed that the logical step after high school is college. It’s just the norm. Students spend their junior year taking the SATs and the ACTs and filling out tons of applications, writing the perfect essays and reviewing them over and over to avoid any mistakes.
However, it’s important to remember that college is just one of the many options you have. Some students like to take time off to travel. Others have been successful in jumping into a job with great growth potential for the future. Still more take the path of trade school and apprenticeships.
To make it simple: yes, you can go to college to get your degree, but there are also other options that are just a viable and profitable for a young person to look into.
So, the first step in setting your college goals is to decide whether or not you really do want to go to college. If you don’t think that college is for you, then I’m glad we could help you nail down that decision. If you’re certain that your future lies in a degree, then continue reading for more tips and advice.
What Do You Want to Study?
Before high school students decide what colleges to apply to, many of them decide what they want to study, which makes sense. When you have at least a general idea of the career path you’re interested in or the program you want to be a part of, it’s much easier to decide on a school.
Depending on your high school’s program, you may have been exposed to a variety of different subjects and topics that you’re interested in. For example, some high schools have excellent theater programs, and perhaps that’s where you found your passion for musical theater. Based on that passion, you may want to look into colleges with well renown theater programs or a theater major.
On the other hand, maybe you’ve discovered during high school that you’re great in the sciences. You love biology and find things like genetics and the human body fascinating. This may have stirred a desire in you to go into medical research or even medicine. Therefore, your college choices will likely reflect that.
It’s also important to remember that it’s okay to go into college undecided. Most colleges even have a “major” for that. You can remain undecided as you take your first semester of college, participating in a wide range of classes until you find what you love and declare a major.
If that’s the route you’re considering, then you may look into colleges with a wide variety of majors and classes, and their other benefits could be more important to you.
One goal that you can set for yourself now before college starts or you begin applying is to figure out what you love and what it is you’d like to study.
Make a list of your favorite subjects in school, as well as your favorite extracurricular activities. Take some time to do a little research. A quick internet search on “jobs in mathematics” can give you a good idea of the kinds of careers that might be a good match for you.
Even if school isn’t your thing, your extracurriculars can serve as a leading factor for your future. Maybe you hate school, but you love being on the baseball team. You could have a future as a coach or an athletic trainer.
Don’t feel discouraged because you don’t have every step of your future figured out. Make it your first goal to really look at what truly makes you happy and what you can see yourself doing long-term.
And, if you’re one of the lucky ones who already know what you want to do, then you’re ready for the next step.
Find Your Dream School
While it’s possible to decide on a school before you decide on your area of studies—hi again, undecided students—knowing your goals can make this decision much easier. Again, we love internet searches—and a quick one can tell you the top schools for your area of study.
You can also decide on your top picks through other factors. Maybe you’re someone who loves to be involved. A school that has your major plus tons of clubs and activities sounds just about right. You may also want to continue your athletic career, so your school has to have your favorite sports.
Many students base their decisions on their school’s location. For example, I was someone who needed to be able to drive home and back to school on the same day if need be, so my school of choice was only 45 minutes from home.
However, someone more adventurous may love the idea of going to school across the country.
The size of the school is another factor to consider. Smaller schools have smaller class sizes, which tend to give students more focused attention from professors. But, larger schools tend to have bigger activities and more going on, which can be a fun time.
And, of course, it’s always a good idea to take tuition fees and scholarship opportunities into consideration. It’s no secret that college is expensive, so if your dream school offers large scholarships and low tuition, more power to you.
That’s all a lot to consider, which is why it’s important to go through every detail that’s important to you and make your list of college options carefully.
Once you’ve achieved your goal of deciding on your perfect schools, your next goal will probably be to get accepted. This is why it’s important to determine where you want to go as soon as possible because ongoing things like your grades and participation can greatly impact your chances of receiving that big acceptance envelope.
Most colleges and universities will post their applications online, but a lot of them also detail their main requirements for acceptance. Most will have a GPA requirement, while others like to see more activities and volunteer work.
You’ll have the best chances at success if you know your college’s requirements so you can align your efforts accordingly.
So, at this point in the process, it’s time to set your goals towards acceptance. Some of these goals may include:
- Grades and GPA
- Volunteer Work
- Recommendation Letters
- SAT/ACT scores
- Other Extra-Curricular Activities
The above list can even be viewed as objectives, which are essentially mini-goals that help you reach your ultimate goal—which is college acceptance. Even these mini-goals can have their own objectives. For example, someone who’s hoping to get an academic scholarship will put most of their efforts towards grades. Objectives towards better grades can include longer study hours, tutor help, and extra credit.
On the other hand, someone striving for an athletic scholarship will still want to keep their grades in good standing, but their objectives will be more focused towards longer practice hours, one-on-one time with the coach, and perhaps even a private coach for the offseason.
In other words, sometimes a great college goal is just to get accepted by achieving smaller goals and the steps necessary.
College Students: The Goals Don’t Stop Here
Well, you’ve done it. You achieved your goal. You put in the work, you got the grades, you nailed the standardized testing, and you pushed your body to the limits in your sports. And, you got into college.
You could stop there and live off of the glory of achieving this goal for a while, but the realistic view will show you that college goals don’t end once you get into college.
In fact, now is a great time to review and redefine your college goals with a stronger emphasis on your future. Now that you’re out of high school, the ever-present threat of the “real world” grows closer with every day. What are you going to do about it?
To get us started on this stage of setting college goals, let’s begin with a few broad goals that many of you may be considering already. These are larger goals to work towards throughout your college experience.
Nowadays, it’s almost expected that college students participate in at least one intern position during college. Not only do internships give you real-world experience, but they let potential employers know that you’re not fresh into the workforce.
You have some more credibility with an internship under your belt and on your resume, and if you do well, you may even have a job offer at its completion. Even if your internship doesn’t offer you a position, in the end, you still gain invaluable experience and the potential for a real-life letter of recommendation.
Internships can happen at any point during your college career, but they most often occur during your last two years. Make scoring an awesome internship one of your college goals. Work hard your first two years so you can apply and achieve your ideal internship.
Some students like to have more than one internship, too, so if you’re feeling ambitious, you may decide to make that a goal as well.
Your Dream Career
Obviously, the goal of college is to learn the skills you need and gain the requirements for achieving your dream job. That tends to be the ultimate goal of most students. Do you want to be a teacher? Well, that’s your goal throughout college: become a teacher.
Of course, the end goal of “become a teacher” has many, many steps in between. Often, our larger goals in life require a certain path full of achievements that get us to the next step. Like climbing a ladder, you must get into college, get into a program, maintain your grades, complete your student teaching, nail an interview, and secure the teaching position.
While it may seem lightyears away at this point in your college career, having your end goal can be a huge motivator for your success. If you know what job you’d like to have post-graduation, set that as a rock solid goal for yourself.
Perhaps, like many others, you aren’t exactly sure what job you’d like yet. That’s okay – and that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t set career goals in college.
Set goals in other ways. Maybe you want to make a certain salary or work in a certain industry. Perhaps your goal is to work as far from an office cubicle as possible or to work with people in some form. Those goals are no less solid than having a specific job title in mind.
Rather than having a dream job in mind after college, some of you might be interested in grad school. Whether you just love school and want to learn as much as possible, or your dream career requires grad school, this is definitely a legitimate goal to have throughout college.
Just like your undergraduate education, graduate school programs will have their own set of requirements you will need to fulfill in order to get accepted. That’s why this is a great college goal to set because you have to continually work hard and maintain certain standards to continue on to grad school.
Finding your ideal graduate school is often easier than compiling your list of colleges because by this point, you likely have a more direct and defined career or educational path. Someone who majored in communications is likely to go into a communications graduate program. Someone who wants to be a doctor will look into medical graduate schools.
Set your goal as early as possible. Use it to motivate you through your undergraduate program so you can secure your place in a graduate program.
As you can see, some of the most common goals for college students are very large-scale and long-term. Careers, grad school, and internships are all very important, but you can also consider some of these smaller goals that can have lasting effects.
Create Your Resume
One of the most essential tools you’ll have for the rest of your career is your resume. Your resume details who you are as a professional.
Many students make the mistake of creating their resume right when it’s time to apply for jobs. The best resumes are developed as things happen. In fact, a lot of high schoolers have a resume. However, the big mistake that they make is leaving their high school resume as is throughout college, only to have to redo the entire thing come graduation.
Your resume needs to be quality work. People pay good money to have their resume professionally written. That’s a valid option; However, there’s a good chance your school’s career center will help you for free. Take advantage of your resources while you have them.
Some people like to have multiple resumes that are geared toward specific positions. In addition, creative professions love to see online resumes, blogs, portfolios, and even video resumes. These options vary by subject – a law student doesn’t really need an online creative portfolio – so you may not need all the extras, but you should absolutely consider your resume a college goal.
Make it your goal to update it regularly, adding things like relevant courses, internships, outside jobs, and skills. You are continually growing throughout your college career, so your resume should reflect that.
Learn About Budgeting
Budgeting is so very important in the real world of adults and bills. It may seem pretty simple: don’t spend so much money that you can’t pay your bills; but the truth is, it’s so much more than that.
If budgeting were really so simple for everyone, there would be no need for financial professionals.
Take the time while you’re in college to learn about budgeting. Make it a goal to set a budget now, while you have fewer bills and most likely a strict income.
If you make it your goal to create a budget a stick to it now, it will be much easier to learn to manage your money when you graduate and take on rent, utility bills, phone bills, gas, and more.
Also, for those of you with student loans, keep in mind that those will kick in after a certain grace period in college. Some extreme budgeting can include starting to pay those loans off early while you’re still in school. This isn’t necessary, but some people like to get a jump-start.
If that’s one of your goals, set it and stick to it. I also highly recommend starting a savings account now. Even if you can only put $20 in it a month, that’s $20 more than you’ll have after you graduate.
Broaden Your Network
Much of life’s success has a lot to do with your network and the connections you make. While this doesn’t mean you can’t be successful without having a broad network, it doesn’t hurt to take a few simple steps towards creating connections. Every little bit helps, right?
When you start college, you may want to make this a goal. Make connections and learn to branch out. A good way to do this is by using social media. Some people like to create professional versions of their accounts.
While you may already have a Twitter or an Instagram, you may consider creating separate accounts for professional use only. Use these accounts to connect with co-workers, professors, and professionals in your field.
LinkedIn is another widely used tool in networking because it’s a platform specifically made for professional connections. You never know who might know who. One connection could land you a top-notch job position.
Set your goal to get out of your comfort zone and make those connections with your future in mind.
Several students have the dream of studying abroad. Don’t just leave it as a dream – make it a goal! You can dream all you want, but the truth is that many schools have travel abroad programs that are totally doable.
Traveling can be such a rewarding and valuable life experience. While you’re still in school, working towards your education, you get to experience different cultures, languages, and environments.
As scary and intimidating as it can seem to spend a whole semester in another country, it’s so worth it. If you’re interested in studying abroad, set that goal now and do what it takes to make it happen.
I’ve never heard anyone have any regrets about getting involved, only regrets about not getting more involved. Sure, a busy schedule can be stressful, but getting involved in on-campus activities is what makes the college experience a great one.
Freshman year is the perfect time to start, too. You’re brand-new, and no one knows you yet, and the beauty of it all is that nobody knows anyone. Getting involved in clubs, activities, and sports is the perfect way to create new bonds, meet new people, and possibly meet some of your future best friends.
College is about more than just good grades. It’s a social experience that will broaden your horizon and lead you to interests and hobbies you didn’t even know you’d enjoy.
Maybe you weren’t very involved in high school, and you feel regretful about that. Set a goal right away to join a club or participate in a sport. You’ll only regret the things you didn’t try.
Learn a Language
Learning a new language can have many benefits for you. Not only is it a great resume booster, but it helps you understand a new culture. In this ever-changing world, more and more people are traveling and moving across the globe and experiencing other environments. Learning a new language is a great way to experience this.
It’s also a great workout for your mind, and employers love the idea of having someone who can speak another language. It extends their reach to more customers and can really portray you as an asset.
Set yourself a goal to learn a new language throughout college. Many colleges have language requirements anyway, so perhaps you can take advantage of those required classes and make a minor out of them. A minor in Spanish can take you far.
Students are the Future
College students are often looked at as partiers who just want to move out of their house away from their families and have fun. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun in college, but students work just as hard in their education as they do their social lives.
Use college goals to motivate you through your time in higher education. These are the days that could define the rest of your life. Goals can help you achieve all that you’re looking for in this world. With a little organization and a lot of determination, you can go far.