At the beginning of a new year, many students will set goals or make resolutions for their Spring term. Goal setting is important and there are many books, articles, and information available at the click of a link or purchase at a local bookstore. However, an underused practice prior to beginning to set goals is evaluation. Evaluation is essential, yet sometimes considered a boring, mysterious, time-consuming, exercise. Evaluating recent past situations, like the Fall semester, can help steer your student’s goal setting in a meaningful way.

"Evaluation is a way for students to gain a new and deeper understanding of themselves and use the results to help them achieve their goals."

A good way for students to begin evaluating is to take a broad view and ask a few general, thought provoking questions. This broader view can allow for an emphasis on learning and application of what is learned. They can begin by asking, “What do I need to know to evaluate past performance?” Asking this question first allows them to begin asking good questions about past performance and changes they would like to make, gathering the information they need to answer their questions, and then making specific decisions based on those answers.

“How can I use this information I just learned to apply to my goal setting?” This process provides a conduit for setting their goals. After asking what is needed, they can apply the information gathered in a productive manner. A thorough review will then lead to asking, “How am I doing right now? How am I feeling about the new semester?” This is a reality check-in. To make effective goals through evaluation, being realistic about where they are in the process is essential. Determining where they are right now can set the foundation for continuous improvement and allow for their goals to be relevant, meaningful, and achievable.

Finally, ask, “What goals do I need to create/set to improve or change for the future?” This is now where students should set their goals or make New Year’s resolutions. Students should choose a goal that has a foreseeable and measurable outcome.

After using the evaluation process, students will be able to examine why they were successful, where they were challenged, and/or why they failed in the past. If they are honest with themselves, and do this without a fear of negative consequences, they will be able to create measurable and achievable goals. An optional, but important, final step could be for students to share their new goals/resolutions with you as an accountability measure. Not necessarily as a means of punishment if your student goes off-track or doesn’t meet the goal, but as a way to receive council, encouragement, or motivation along the way. A good tool in the parental toolkit may be to encourage your student to set a reward for themselves if they achieve their goal or keep the resolution.

"...encourage your student to set a reward for themselves if they achieve their goal or keep the resolution."

The Office of Residence Life wishes you and your student a Happy and Successful New Year!

Other common stressors may include: roommate conflicts, initial adjustments to a new academic environment, values exploration, social life adjustments, initial social reflections, becoming familiar with campus, long distance relationships, feeling inadequate, and/or financial adjustments. Short articles on these and other topics can be found throughout the year at www.jmu.edu/orl/families/newsletter.shtml.

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