Planning for success

Just like everything else in life, your success at uni will depend on your ability to be organised, stay on task and plan ahead. But it’s also helpful to consider this in reverse: what will success at uni mean for you? Reflecting on your own interests and skills can be a good way to begin planning your way forward.

Setting goals

Setting good goals at uni means being able to think about the big picture of your course, and considering what you would like to achieve. You may even think about where you’d like to end up after your course is complete.

Just because you’re studying doesn’t mean all your goals for uni will be about results. They may be about developing your own strengths and weaknesses, or simply just to complete your course. Some goals may not even be academic.

  • Social: To make a wide network of contacts at uni
  • Academic: To achieve high marks in my course
  • Career: To complete a subject offering work experience
  • Personal: To complete a semester overseas as part of study exchange

Once you know where you’d like to end up, you can make a plan for how to get there. One problem with goals is that they can be vague: how will you know you’re on track? The secret is to make your goals SMART – that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Let’s rework one of the examples above – try exploring the goal below.

Research shows that good goal setting is connected to better student performance. Considering what you've just learnt about good goals, now try setting a goal of your own. This can relate to study, or any other part of your life you'd like to focus on. You might like to return to this part of the site to set your goals in future.

Remember to plan how you will celebrate you achievements. It is important to reward yourself when you reach your goals, whether they are big or small. Including rewards in your planning also means you’re more likely to stay motivated and on task as you work towards your achievements. Most unis have staff that can help students with goal setting: often, these will be services specialising in career help, or counselling. Try searching for “careers” or “counselling” on a uni homepage for an example.

Knowing your strengths

An important part of setting achievable goals is reflecting on your own abilities: times in the past you’ve done well and times in the past where you could have improved.  Getting good results as a uni student is a combination of many different skills, not all of which are strictly academic. Many students returning to study find that their experiences in life, or in the workplace, are valuable when it comes to developing discipline and forming a good study routine.

The quiz below will help you assess some of the strengths you can transfer to your new life as a uni student, and those skills you can work on improving. From the list of statements, decide on a few as "most like you" and "least like you".

There are many opportunities available for students interested in developing skills for study. Many unis run a program of workshops in academic skills during orientation and early in semester, as well as offering peer programs, mentorships and appointments for study help.  Aspiring students can help themselves develop their skills by visiting Studywell.

Which of these makes the SMARTest goal?