The start of a new academic year in college can be both exciting and daunting. Although it may sound a bit new agey, one thing that can really help you focus is a bit of self-reflection.

Self-reflection is just what it sounds like: conscientious thought about yourself, your behavior and your beliefs. As we all know, college requires effort, motivation and persistence. For those who didn’t go to college right away after high school, the decision to attend college might have taken years to reach. For others, college might be something that has been nudged upon them by a parent or other family member.

Whatever your situation, spend this time before the first day of classes contemplating why you’re here—and how you’ll make the most of this year. Here are a few thinking prompts to get your wheels turning:

What are your values?

What is important to you today, and what have you learned in your past that has shaped your values? What do you feel will be important to you five, 10 or 20 years from now? If you’re still figuring out what to study, your value system will help you narrow your options.

What are your strengths and how can you capitalize on them?

College is challenging. It’s also a huge opportunity to grow as a person. Maybe you’re great at bringing people together—if so, use this to your advantage by building a community of new friends and classmates. Maybe you’re organized and good at managing your time. If that’s your strength, keep up the good work by staying on top of homework and studying. Remember to also consider areas where you can improve.

What makes you happiest?

Mull over the environment in which you feel most comfortable and fulfilled. Do you enjoy being around people? Helping others? Doing research? Are you happiest when you’re being challenged? Are you a person who enjoys being in charge or at the center of attention—or are you more of a “behind-the-scenes” person?

What are you most concerned about?

Make a list of the fears you have about college, whether they have to do with choosing a major—or more general concerns about how hard college course work might be. This exercise will help you to address your fears head on—with support. Your school’s career center can help you determine the best career path for you. At FRCC, the Academic Support Center and other learning resources will give you the academic support you need to be successful.

Who are your biggest supporters?

It’s a whole lot easier to navigate college with a support system behind you. When you need help or someone to talk to, who have you gone to in the past? Of the people in your life, consider who has different personality traits that might be most helpful to you at different times. For example, perhaps your dad is a positive cheerleader who will help you get out of a mental rut, whereas your mom is the realist who can help you analyze career paths.

One of the most important questions to ponder as you embark on a new school year is this: What do you want to gain from college?

Think about what you are hoping to get out of this experience, both academically and personally. Obviously getting an education—so that you’re equipped to achieve your career goals (or to switch careers)—might be top of the list. But you’re in college for other reasons too. What are they? Reflect, plan and go for it. This is going to be your year!

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