Building a Ladder to Your Dreams

By Dennis Owen Frohlich on September 13, 2013
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Most students can’t wait to graduate and start college or begin that fast-paced, high-paying career. It’s easy to dream big, but how will you realize your dreams? Setting (and following through with) realistic goals is a little more difficult than dreaming, but the payoff is worth the extra effort.

Setting goals is vital to success in school and career, and both long-term and short-term goals are necessary. Getting into a good college is the goal of many students, but you can’t just show up to college on the first day of classes. Applying to college is work.

“During the senior year, it’s important to break the application process into several smaller goals,” said Jenny Klug, the college and career counselor at Lindbergh High School in St. Louis, Mo. “Students need to apply for financial aid, take the ACT or SAT, get letters of recommendation, apply to colleges, and explore career and class options.”

That’s a lot of stuff to do, and when listing all of these requirements, applying to college can quickly appear overwhelming. By meeting with your guidance counselor early, you can break the application process down into smaller, more manageable goals.

Realistic, specific and measurable

When setting goals, it’s important that they are realistic, specific, and measureable. For example, students sometimes want to “do better in school.”

While this is admirable, as a goal it is neither specific nor measureable. If you want to do better in school, the questions you should be asking might be: “In which areas do I wish to improve?” and “How will I measure that improvement?”

A more specific goal might be: “Earn at least a B in all classes.” This goal is certainly measureable: when you look at your report card, you’ll know if you reached this goal or not. But even this goal could be broken down into smaller, more specific steps.

To earn your desired grade, sub-goals might be: complete all assignments on time, study for tests 30 minutes a night starting a week before the test, and ask one question in class a day. You could even break classes down into specific assignments and make goals for each assignment.

No goal is worth much, however, if you forget it as soon as you set it.

“I tell students to write down their goals and post them where they will see them every day,” said Klug. “Seeing your goals often will motivate you to complete them.” She also recommends telling your goals to an adult mentor who can keep you accountable to your goals.

Smaller goals help

Graduating seniors not only have academic goals, if they are going to college, but career goals, as well. Katie Gregoire, a senior at Fargo North High School in Fargo, N.D., has a big goal for the future: she wants to be a speech pathologist.

To get the job she wants, she will need a master’s degree. Though that degree is several years of education away for her, she’s looked at her current position and made a list of smaller goals she needs to accomplish to make her way up the ladder toward it.

“Right now I’m doing a lot of things to get ready for college,” said Gregoire. “I’m keeping my grades high, and I’m taking the ACT a second time. I’m also emailing professors at colleges and getting a lot of information about their speech pathology programs and the classes they offer.”

By setting smaller goals and chipping away at them at the appropriate times, Gregoire increases her chances of staying on track to achieve her long-term goals.

Everybody’s goals are different. If you want to have a successful and fulfilling life, you’ll want to set realistic and specific goals to work for one by one. Dreams are nice, but they will only remain dreams unless you make the plans necessary to turn them into realities.

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Dennis Owen Frohlich

Dennis Owen Frohlich

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