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Succeeding in University: Defining Your Plan and What Matters to You

Succeeding in University Part 2: Defining Your Plan and What Matters to You

Succeeding in university is rather like succeeding in life. It’s really much more about you than it is about the university. So the most important place to start is to consider why you’re there, what matters to you, and what you expect to get out it. Even if you have already thought about these questions, it’s good to reaffirm your commitment to your plan as we begin to consider what’s really involved in being a university student.

What’s Your Plan?

Take a few minutes and write down short answers to the questions below. Be honest with yourself, and write down what you really feel. You are not writing for a lecturer here—not what you think someone expects to hear—and you are not being graded on your answers!

  • How long do you anticipate being in university?
  • How many courses will you need to take per semester to finish university in your planned time period?
  • What do you anticipate will be the most difficult part of completing university?
  • Are you confident you will be able to overcome any possible difficulties in completing your university education?

Were you able to easily answer the questions above? How confident do you feel about your plan?

These are important questions to think about for the simple reason that students who have a clear plan and who are prepared to overcome possible obstacles that may arise along the way are much more likely to succeed in university. In other words, just thinking in a positive way about your future can help that future come true!

What Matters to You?

The word values refers to things that matter to a person. What makes you feel good or happy? What things would you be doing if you had all the time, money, and opportunities in the world? Questions like these help us define our own values. Every individual has his or her own values.

Thinking about your own values can help you know what you want from life and from the university. Take a moment and consider the list of things below that are valued by some people. For each value, rate how important that thing is to you. You can rate the importance on a scale of 0 to 5:

  • Making a good income
  • Having good friends
  • Learning new things about your interests
  • Having a nice car
  • Having intelligent conversations
  • Staying current with the news
  • Playing sports
  • Hanging out with friends
  • Playing computer or video games
  • Cooking
  • Online social networking
  • Sleeping
  • Reading a good book
  • Traveling to new places
  • Shopping
  • Being liked by others
  • Studying and reading textbooks
  • Having nice clothing
  • Watching television
  • Enjoying time alone
  • Getting out in nature
  • Working your job
  • Looking good, personal hygiene
  • Meeting new people
  • Going to movies or entertainments
  • Eating nice meals out
  • Exercising, being physically active
  • Being your own boss
  • Having a positive romantic relationship
  • Engaging in your hobbies
  • Setting your own schedule
  • Volunteering your time for a good cause
  • Cleaning house
  • Attending classes
  • Going to religious services
  • Talking on the telephone, texting, e-mail
  • Going to parties
  • Participating in clubs, organized activities
  • Other: __________________________

Look back at the values you rated highly (4 or 5) in the list above, which probably give a good indication of how you enjoy spending your time. But now look at these things you value in a different way. Think about how each relates to how you think you need to manage your time effectively while in university. Most university students feel they don’t have enough time for everything they like to do. Do some of the activities you value most contribute to your university experience, or will they distract you from being a good student?

Students who enter university with their eyes open and who think about their own values and motivations will be more successful. If you have a good idea of what you want from life, the rest of it can be learned. We’ll start right away in a couple of other articles by helping you stay motivated and manage your time well. The next set of articles will then lead you through learning how to study well and everything else.

Key Takeaway

Thinking about your personal values and how they relate to your education can help you stay motivated to succeed in school.


College success. (2015). Retrieved from or download the PDF. (License: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

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