How to Set Goals for Your College Dreams

Want to truly push your mind to reach your full potential?

The answer might just be setting goals.

Goal-setting has been shown to be linked with higher-motivation, increased self-esteem and self-confidence, and can even be an indicator of future success.

As we enter 2023, it can seem a foregone conclusion that you and your child will be setting goals.

But are you setting the right goals to help them plan for their future college and career decisions?

Goals Can Give You a Sense of Meaning and Purpose

If you already have a high-performing child (or you are that student!), you probably set goals. Are you going through the practice of writing them down?

Seeing the visual of your goals can not only help you actually achieve them, but also give you a sense of direction, meaning, and even purpose in your teenage years.

Planning for college, career, and even adulthood can feel like a lot.

But if you’re serious about getting into a college of your choice, then setting goals can help you better dictate your life’s outcome and keep a strong sense of why you’re striving for that in the first place.

How do we recommend you set goals for yourself and your college dreams?

teenage girl journaling out her specific goals

1. Set Goals that Are Consistent with What You Want

This might seem easy, but you have to actually set goals for what your passions are. If your passions are out of sync with your goals, you’ll be far more likely to not accomplish them or at least, be fighting the lack of motivation the entire way.

Setting goals that are consistent with what you’re truly passionate about will help you keep that drive.

2. Be Clear and Specific with Goal Setting

You can’t hit a bullseye if the target keeps moving, right?

The same is true with achieving a goal. It’s impossible to actually accomplish a goal if you’re not clear and specific about what you’re wanting to achieve.

When you’re planning and goal setting, you want to set something that’s realistic and believable, then get really specific about what that goal is. Do you want to get into a specific college, or a specific program within that college?

We also love to add the “why” – the motivating factor – with that goal. It’s a great way to keep yourself specific and super clear in your mind.

3. Have a Clear Action Plan

It’s lovely to say that you’re going to get into this college you’ve been dreaming about, but how?

Break down your big goal into smaller steps and create an actual action plan.

What do you need to do to get to the “big” goal and hit that bullseye?

Make sure you’re talking with others or doing your own research to ensure that you’re realistic about what those steps should be in your action plan.

4. Set Specific Deadlines

Keep your motivation moving and your goal progressing by setting realistic, but specific deadlines.

These deadlines are a “best guess” but you’ll better keep moving on your action plan when you have timelines to abide by.

Deadlines will help you create action and momentum towards achieving your goal. Plus, breaking up your action plan with deadlines will help you be realistic about what it will actually take to hit your big goal.

student writing goals in a notebook

5. Write It All Down

Whether you use a fancy planner, a bullet journal, or a Google doc, you need to record your goals somewhere.

When they just live in your head, you’re far less likely to follow through. In fact, research shows that writing down a goal is one of the most important steps.
Write down your big goal, action steps, and all your deadlines.

Having it in writing will make it easier for you to follow your own progress and check in with yourself.

Don’t Be Afraid of Failure

One of the most important parts of goal setting, especially for college admissions success?

Don’t get wrapped up in fearing failure.

Failure in a goal can actually be one of your greatest assets. You may not have hit that specific deadline or got the big goal at the end, but you’ve become wiser, more confident, and built up your character.

All things that will help you succeed the next time you try.

It’s time to unleash your full potential, so grab a notebook or open your Notes app and start setting some goals.

Dr. Jeff & Dr. Brian Haig

How to get into college
Planning for college