On the cusp of a new school year, opportunity abounds, as it does anytime we get to start again. Whether you’re headed for high school or college – it’s a time to embrace the freshness of a blank screen that’s yours to fill. So, while you try to hold on to those last moments of summer holiday, you can also look forward to starting the semester with goals in mind.

Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. There’s no need to rehaul everything, but this is a great time to reflect on last year and identify small changes and commitments you can make to help you develop as a student and person this year. You can start by asking yourself a few simple questions:

What did I do well last year and what could I improve upon?

You might have had a great year. If so, think about what made it great and write down what contributed to that. Think about how to commit to the same habits and actions that kept you focused and keep connected with the people who support you, while naming new goals you’d like to reach along the way.

If last year wasn’t your best, ask yourself what circumstances contributed to that. Maybe there was an event that affected your life and was out of your control – has it passed or is it still a factor? Decide now how you would like to approach those types of situations and what helps you find balance in your life. Maybe you didn’t manage your time well and your grades suffered. This is the time to come up with a concrete plan to help you better manage your time and commit to your academic and personal goals.

How will you cultivate relationships with those who support your growth this year?

Why are certain teachers, family, friends and others important to you? The people around you create your community – helping you make life decisions, picking you up when you’re down and celebrating your successes.

Whether this community is one or two special people or a large group, make sure that you reach out to them, build your relationships and recognize the role they have in your life. Their opinions, ideas, experiences and support will make your life richer, give you new perspectives, and even lead to recommendations and opportunities you never thought of before.

How can I deepen my involvement?

You’re already involved in activities and projects in and out of class. Instead of focusing only on new opportunities, think about how you can deepen your experiences. If you’re a member of a club you love, think about a new event or initiative you can suggest, or take on a leadership role this year. If you’ve always wanted to pursue academic research, talk to your teachers about opportunities or propose a project of your own. If you’re an athlete who works hard but may not be the star, think about how you can contribute to your team in other ways, connecting them to the community or building team spirit.

A new school year is filled with potential. With a little planning and follow-through, you can use it to create your foundation, and become the best version of yourself. Not sure where to begin? Schedule a consultation with one of our former admissions officers to explore the path you want to make.

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

Join an upcoming webinar
Download a resource guide