Know Your “Why”: The Key to Student Success in College

Knowing your purpose and setting clear academic goals is key to a student's success in college.

By Katie Llewellyn

If you were to ask any individual college student why they chose to pursue higher education, you would receive many different answers. Some would say that they want to go to college to give their children a better life. Others seek to obtain a good job to make good money and build financial security. Some students may aspire to be the first in their family to go to college.

Whatever the “why”, it seems to be the x-factor when it comes to student success in college and reaching academic goals.

Innate intelligence, while certainly helpful, is not proven to be the best predictor of college success. Students with perseverance, grit and resilience tend to achieve their educational goals.

Your “why” is the reason you will keep pushing forward even when obstacles arise or the temptation to quit starts to look appealing.

Your purpose will fuel your perseverance and will silence the voice of self-doubt or insecurity that you can’t accomplish what you have set out to do.

Purpose will give you a clear focus and will act as a compass for the decisions you will have to make in your academic career.

You must remember why you started.

How to succeed in college:

Write down your “why”

Why are you pursuing a degree? What does your education mean to you? Be specific.

“I want to graduate because I want to make a good salary” is not as compelling as “I want to graduate because I want to ensure that my family is financially secure and stable.”

In college, there will be conflicts of obligations, social functions that you’ll miss and long nights spent studying. By having your specific “why” on paper, you can remind yourself of specific academic goals you are working toward when the going gets tough.

Set clear goals

What do you want your future to look like and how will you get there? Setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) can help you keep your focus and determine what steps you need to take.

Here’s an example:

Specific Goal:

I want to earn an A in each of my courses (an increase from the current B average).

       Measurable:

I will meet with my advisor and/or professors in the next week.

I’ll ask for advice on how I can get the most out of their courses and get feedback on how I can improve in my studies.

       Achievable:

This week, I will create a weekly schedule to help manage my time, noting my class and study times, work schedule, leisure time, and breaks.

I will apply the feedback received from my professors and keep my schedule current.

   Relevant:

I want to have firm grasp on the concepts we’re learning and reach my potential as a student.

Getting good grades will allow me more opportunity in my education and will help me be more competitive in the job market after graduation.

Time Bound:

At the end of the semester, I will be earning A- or better on each of my assignments.

As I continue in my education, I will revisit and revise my schedule and priorities as needed to earn an A- or better in each course.

Find a support system

Whether it is your family, your friends, or your professors, find people in your world who can encourage you to keep going when you feel overwhelmed and remind you why you started.

Regent’s Center for Student Happiness exists to improve the quality of your experience. Check out their resources and contact them if you need any help.