How To Help Teens Set Achievable Goals

How To Help Teens Set Achievable Goals

College admissions 2023 launches for high school juniors as we ring in the new year. In my journey as a college and graduate school essay coach, high school English teacher, and parent, the second semester officially marks the serious start of all things college prep.  It has been such a fascinating (and sometimes, anxiety producing) time to watch my own teenagers navigate the process.

Academic goal setting 2023 also launches for freshman, sophomores, and juniors in high school, as the beginning of January means creating a vision for school success and college admission.

Yet, as the adults in the room, it is our job to teach our children and students how to actually accomplish the goals they set. 

The Challenges Teens Have With Goal-Setting

Countless students want to earn an “A” in a challenging English class, a science class, or a math class, yet hurt themselves by focusing only on the end result – instead of the action needed to reach their school goals.  

The time, commitment, and ability to work through conflict in order to receive “A” grades remains a mystery to some students and creates great frustration for them.

Teens want to put up pretty wallpaper, have that “A,” yet fail to lay the foundation first. Does this saying resonate with anyone you know? 

One of my writing students expressed deep frustration with his teacher for “never giving an A on an essay,” and when I asked my student if he thoroughly read and understood the novel, he admitted, “not really, but still….” 

How can a student expect to write clearly about a novel when he does not yet think clearly about it? 

From sports to theater to grades, students want the golden end result, to be placed on “the highest team with a starting position,” or the “leading role in the school play,” yet some neglect to really take a deep dive into the person they need to be, the practice required, in order to get that result. 

So how do you support your high school student to set goals and not only achieve them but commit to the work required to achieve their goals?

What You Can Do

You do your best to help your teen focus on the steps it takes, like thoroughly reading and understanding a novel, planning out the time needed to revise an essay, rather than feeling overwhelmed. 

The trick is to teach your teen to be the person they need to be in order to achieve those goals. To help your teen understand that the end result, the grade on the essay or final exam is a reflection of their knowledge and skill – not if the teacher likes them. 

Brilliant advice I have learned over the years for high school students that helps them feel less aggravated, sad, and overwhelmed:

  • Who do I have to be as a student, and what do I actually need to do as a student in order to have what I want? 

I use this “Be, Do, Have” approach with both my own children and my students.

The Benefits of “Be, Do, Have”

With this approach, students actually gain a better understanding of the motivation, time, and dedication needed to work on weaker skill areas as well as learn the power of asking for help from teachers, tutors, or well-intentioned, skilled friends.

Although at first, when they realize the amount of work required, my approach is met with grunts and snarls and eye rolling, ultimately, they gain ownership and a greater sense of autonomy and responsibility. 

What usually follows, then, is watching them feel self-motivated and taking inspired action that sets them up for success the next time and the time after that. 

In celebration of the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we need to help encourage our teens. In his words, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” We need to connect our children to having the confidence to find success in school and trust in their own ability. 

You can see the magic in the “be, do, have,” mentality yourself, and encourage your teens to understand the work involved to achieve their goals and the role they play in the process. 

Watch the growth as they as they figure it out, seek help when needed, and feel a lot happier with recognizing the work involved in achieving the end result. 

As college applications loom closer for juniors this year, to talk further about this approach, or help your students accomplish their second semester goals, and college admissions goals, please reach out here.

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