[This blog post was originally published on CollegePrepExpress's Blog, on December 29, 2012]
On behalf of everyone at CollegePrepExpress, I wish you a healthy, productive, successful, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I'm a great believer in the old adage that today is the first day of the rest of your life, that you can choose to wipe the slate clean and start fresh any day you choose. But there are two ideal times for students in particular to pause for serious introspection and reassessment and to set new goals: the beginning of the academic year and the beginning of the calendar year. So NOW would be a great time to sit down with paper and pen, or screen and keyboard, and write down/type up specific goals for the rest of the year. It's not an accident when dreams come true. What’s the difference between dreams and goals? A goal is a WRITTEN dream with a deadline. People who COMMIT TO THEIR GOALS IN WRITING are many, many times more likely to achieve them than those who simply THINK about them. Not sure why, but it doesn’t matter: just do it because it works. :-)
A quick word to the haters of New Year's Resolutions, you know, the bellyachers who claim they're stupid because they never last last past February. Don't listen to them, even if "them" is one of the voices in your own head! The most successful people in our society, including top students, have clear, concrete goals that point them in the direction of their dreams. Your resolutions tell you where you're going in 2013. And if you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? As I said, it's not an accident when dreams come true!
Most of you have goals in the college admissions game, and individual resolutions lists will be different depending on the weakest link(s) in your college admissions chains. Some need to focus on schoolwork and getting better grades; some need to get into a regular regimen of vocab, math, and grammar review for the SAT and ACT; some need to beef up commitment to taking practice standardized tests; some need to balance sedentary activities and poor diets with more sports and exercise and healthier eating (do you know the word sedentary? If not, add it to your flash cards! ;-)); some need to rethink and rework their application essays; some need to re-commit to important extracurricular pursuits, including community service; yada yada yada. A little bit of honest self-reflection and self-assessment (this is good practice for the “real world,” too) will go a LONG way! If you need help identifying and setting goals to strengthen your weak links, why not sign up for a FREE 15-min Skype consultation?
Here are some general guidelines for making your New Year’s Resolutions, adapted from the Top Achievement website:
- Make sure the goal you are working for is something you really want, not just something that sounds good. Don’t waste your time with pretty-sounding goals, for example, I will study as long as it takes to get into Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. This may SOUND good, and those are some fine schools, but are they the schools you really want to attend in your heart of hearts? Maybe you’d much prefer to go to a school with a program well-suited to your particular talents, skills, and long-term goals. When setting goals, it is very important to remember that your goals must be consistent with what you really want.
- A goal can not contradict any of your other goals. For example, if you plan to sleep ~8 hours a night, and if you’re in school another ~8 hours, you can’t set goals that require another 12 hours a day. Do the math, it just won’t add up!
- Develop goals in several areas: Performance in Classes; Standardized Test Preparation; College and Grad School Applications (for seniors and higher ed students); Sports, Extracurriculars, and Community Service; Diet and Exercise; Relaxation and Meditation. Making sure you hit these major areas of your life will ensure peak functioning mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Write your goal in the positive instead of the negative. “Work for what you want, not for what you want to leave behind. Part of the reason why we write down and examine our goals is to create a set of instructions for our subconscious mind to carry out. Your subconscious mind is a very efficient tool; it can not determine right from wrong and it does not judge. It's only function is to carry out its instructions. The more positive instructions you give it, the more positive results you will get.Thinking positively in everyday life will also help in your growth as a human being. Don't limit it to goal setting” (Top Achievement).
- Write your goal out in complete detail. Instead of writing "Better grades in math; higher scores on the ACT,” write “an 88 in math by the next marking period, and a 90 by the end of the year; 27 or better on each of the four main ACT sections and a 9 or better in Writing.” This will help immeasurably in adjusting your daily “to do” list.
- By all means, make sure your goal is high enough. Don’t let ultra-conservative college counselors steal your dreams. Shoot for the moon; if you miss, you'll still land among the stars!
- This is the most important -- write down (type up) your goals! Why? Because it works! If you have a Mac, try using Reminders to translate your long-term goals into daily to-do lists. iPhones, iPods, Blackberries, etc., work, too :-)
Regardless of what year in middle school, high school, or college you’re in, here are some specific ideas for you to consider as you reflect upon the fall of this past academic year and set goals for yourself for the rest of the year, adapted from the Oxford Learning website:
- I resolve to write down my homework and assignments and other daily “to do’s” in my agenda or planner or electronic Reminders or eCalendar.
- I resolve to do my homework every night.
- I resolve to make better use of free time during the school day.
- I resolve to do my quiz- and test-studying well before the last minute.
- I resolve to set aside 10 min every day to review vocab, math facts, and grammar rules.
- I resolve to put up my hand and ask questions in class when I don’t understand and to contribute actively when I do.
- I resolve to take better notes and to read over my notes every night, even when I don’t have homework.
- I resolve to ask for help when I need it (see http:/CollegePrepExpress.com ;-)).
- I resolve to read more.
- I resolve to eat foods that are more nutritious and better for my brain (high protein, low carb, and low fat) and to exercise DAILY.
- I resolve to get more sleep.
- I resolve to manage stress and anxiety with a regular practice of deep breathing and meditation.
- I resolve to be an active learner and own the consequences of my own decisions.
PLEASE DON'T MINDLESSLY COPY THIS LIST. Remember point #1 in the general guidelines above—only commit to goals that are YOURS. Then go make them happen. Good luck, Happy New Year, and Happy Goal Setting! Let us know how we can help!