Each year in college is thought of as just that – your freshman year, your sophomore year etc. But the freshman year is so new on every level, that at LaunchingU we focus with our clients on,” your first semester, and your second semester.” Honestly freshmen are entering a whirling dervish of newness when they show up at that dorm for the first time. New friends, new degrees of freedom on every level, a gazillion choices to make about everything, different expectations on performance, old supports systems at least distant, if not gone, and so on, and so on.
In our work with students we are always working to increase their ability to problem solve and to be intentional about their focus and goals. With our freshmen clients we ask them to set clear goals for each semester in their freshmen year. These always include academic goals, but are also broader than that and include learning new things, establishing a social network, understanding where resources are on campus etc.
Your students might have flourished or struggled in their first semester. Either way, here is a thought. You can ask them to consider setting goals for this semester. It can create an understanding that something is beginning anew, and that there is an opportunity to learn from the first semester and create some clear intentions for this second one. And as parents who recognize that we are no longer in the driver’s seat, you know enough not to try and tell them what their goals should be. But you can plant a seed that setting goals might be helpful.
Here’s a great idea we got from one of the parent’s we worked with.
As she was preparing for this conversation with her son, she thought about how she had set a goal for herself of getting back in the workforce as her last child had just gone off to college. She was proud of herself that she had developed a resume for the first time in 10 years, created a LinkedIn page and was doing a lot of informational interviews to reconnect with her prior field. When she started the conversation with her son, Bethany shared the fact that setting that goal for herself ended up really building her confidence, and she thought it might do the same thing for him. Terrific idea!
Bethany does not know if her son is setting goals this semester, but he asked her a fair amount of questions about how she had gone about setting the goals, so she is cautiously optimistic. What we loved about it is, that by sharing that story, she was using two very important tools of parenting – especially parenting older children. She was demonstrating or modeling something as opposed to telling her son to do something. We all know that our children pay much more attention to what we do than what we say. Secondly, she was modeling that it is ok to be vulnerable, to not have all the answers and that adulthood is not this magic stage that we reach because of our age, but rather a constant process or learning, growing and striving. Great job!
Another Great Example of Goal Setting
One of our freshmen clients had to drop a class first semester that she was going to fail. In addition to setting goals around improving her GPA in the second semester and having plans for that, she was also researching whether she could take the class during the summer at a college in her hometown and what was available. Another freshman, again in addition to maintaining what was a very strong GPA from her first semester, had goals around trying new things (early plan includes learning to Tango!). We know from our work with these clients that doing this – and following through -helps to build the problem solving muscle and a sense of confidence that they can take more ownership of their college experience.
Remember, you are planting a seed here, so it works best as a suggestion not an expectation. And they can choose to share them with you or not. You might suggest that it is fine if they do or don’t share them with you – but that goals that are shared with someone stand a better chance of being accomplished. They may muse on this idea, they may use it, or just ignore it – but a seed has been planted. That is a good thing on its own!
Here is a checklist you can share with your student for goal setting in their second semester
- Assess the pluses and minuses of the first semester
- What are you proud of accomplishing? Consider academic results, whether you have a network of friends that you are comfortable with, have you found some clubs or teams or activities outside of academics you find engaging, etc. etc.
- Are there aspects of your first semester that you would like to improve on? If so, what are they?
- Consider you routines – are they working for you? Do you want to make any adjustments?
- Are you aware of the support and resources that are on campus and could any of these resources be helpful in the second semester?
- Have you made meaningful contact with at least one professor?
- Review these pluses and minuses and develop clear goals for the second semester. Consider using the SMART method of goal setting. SMART Goals are:
- Specific: You are clear what you want to accomplish
- Measurable: You understand how you will know if you achieved the goal
- Achievable: The goal is doable in the context of being a college student
- Relevant: The goal is relevant to your overarching goals of being a college student
- Timed: The goal has specific dates for completion
- Figure out what kinds of support or resources you might need to make progress on these goals
- Put your goals somewhere where you can see them easily and update and adjust as necessary as you move through the semester
- Considering partnering with a friend on setting and achieving goals – we know that when goals are shared, they are more likely to be accomplished.
Need more support? Contact us at anytime for a free consultation.