A new year. A new semester. For some transfer students or spring starts students, a new college. January marks a season of beginnings for many of us — and especially for college students. Some students are anxious for this new beginning because their previous semester did not go as well as they had hoped. Other students are eager for the chance to take their already good college experiences to the next level. But just wishing for a better semester won’t necessarily mean that anything will be different.
New beginnings require new approaches. Here are seven relatively simple actions that your student can take now to increase the chances that this semester will be a great one.
- Create goals for the semester. It helps if you know what you want to achieve. Make sure goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound). Write them down.
- Share your goals. It helps if you share your goals with someone that you trust. It holds you accountable. Your trusted friend can also help you stay on track — or might even be working toward the same or similar goals. Working together makes you both stronger.
- Be willing to change your lifestyle. This may be one of the most difficult steps to accomplish. Wishing for change requires taking action. You need to be ready to make some changes in the way you approach your life/work/studies. Doing things the same way but hoping things turn out differently will not work. Invest in the time and/or soul-searching that may be required to decide whether you truly want your goals badly enough to make the changes necessary. Then commit to making whatever life changes may be necessary.
- Remove or reduce temptations. Once you’ve committed to making changes, think about what the barriers are and try to remove or at least reduce them. This may be as straightforward as realizing that you need to study someplace other than your room so you won’t be tempted to sleep/play video games/eat/socialize/watch TV. It may mean finding a new circle of friends. It may mean giving your facebook password to a trusted friend while you study for an exam. Determine what gets in the way of achieving your goals and reduce or remove it.
- Find a support network. You don’t need to accomplish this on your own. Find the friends who will support you. Turn to your family when you need them. Find support services (tutoring, counseling, advisor, residence assistant, faculty members) who will be there to help you accomplish what you need to. Use your networks.
- Check your progress frequently. Nothing is as encouraging as success, and even failure can spur you on with new determination. Find ways to check on how you are doing. Keep track of your grades in classes. Keep track of any class absences — they add up. Check in with professors. Keep careful track of deadlines and progress toward major projects or assignments.
- Focus on positive results and celebrate every success. No doubt there will be bumps in the road, but if you stay focused on your goals, there will be successes as well. They may be baby steps, but they will move you forward. Find and recognize this progress. Every step is a step closer to those goals.
These seven steps can help any of us accomplish our goals. As parents, we might have a few goals of our own we’d like to work toward. Many of us do some of these things without even realizing that we are doing them, but discussing these seven steps with your college student will help her consciously work toward her goals.