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Set Goals for The New Academic Year

Summer is a great time to really think about the past year and to set goals for the upcoming one. While you might want to block out what happened the previous academic year, remember that we have to learn from our successes and our failures. This will help you to set appropriate goals and strategies for the upcoming year. Find a time when you can really sit down and think about the past year. Even if you had the best academic year of your life, there is still value in reflection. Think of this as New Year’s resolutions for the school year. The key is making them stick.

The first thing you want to do is to take stock. Either think about or write down your responses to the following questions.

• What could you have done differently or better? This can be general or specific to each one of your classes in school. Be as specific as you can here. Something general like “study more” does not really help you at all. And an answer like that is really the easy way out. How could you have studied differently? Would you change the location or the time of studying? Would you study two or four days in advance?

• What habits would you like to improve? How could this have helped your performance last year? Examples of habits include time management, study skills, sleep, etc. Before you fall into the same bad habits again, pick the few that you really want to improve upon.

• Reflect on how and where you were most successful. What was it about those experiences that led to your success? Success does not just happen; you work for it. Don’t just dwell on the instances when success was not at your fingertips. Think about the times when your efforts were rewarded. What can you learn from those?

• How did your strengths shine through? We all have strengths. By better understanding those strengths, we can use them to be more effective. You might realize that you are really great at managing and leading others. You might want to take the lead on group projects. You might find that you are fantastic at editing papers. Perhaps you can help a friend edit a paper and she can help you with the format of a lab report. Now, I am not advocating for cheating here, but rather using your skills to help others and vice versa.

• What was your responsibility in the things that did not go well? It is often too easy to blame others for our own shortcomings. If you had a flimsy relationship with a teacher and your grades plummeted because of a lack of communication, what could you have done to strengthen that relationship? If your group for a project did not carry its weight and produce a quality project, how could you have more effectively managed communication or the members?

Once you have really dissected the past year, you can more effectively plan for the upcoming year. So let’s set some goals:

• What grades do you want to achieve this year and how will you do it? The second part of this question is actually the most important. Think strategically about the five or six things you must do to be successful.

• Outside of academics, what do you hope to accomplish? List five things you want to happen through your extracurricular activities, and how you plan to make them a reality.

• You are likely going to be taking some standardized tests this year. Map out which ones you plan to take and how and when you will study for them.

• What are your personal goals for the year? While school and extracurricular activities will certainly eat up quite a bit of your time, remember that this is your life. You probably have interests outside formal activities and school. Think about five things you would like to have happen this year. They can be simple things like reading 10 books or learning how to cook four of your favorite dishes.

Before the last days of summer disappear and you are suddenly in the thick of the academic year, take just a few minutes to reflect and plan. Your year will go by more smoothly and with less stress.

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