Why It Matters: Goal Setting and Time Management

When you go to college, it is important to start taking responsibility for your own learning. You may sit in large classes where the teacher does not even know your name.  Therefore, you are in charge of your own academic life.  What you learn or do not learn, is NOT determined by your teachers, your homework, or the kinds of tests you take.  It is determined by your effort!  What is your plan if you do not understand the content in your course?  Do you ignore the problem and just hope it goes away or do you take active steps to remedy the problem, such as make an appointment with the teacher, get a tutor, read supplemental material?  No one can learn for you!  When you take responsibility for your learning, you are an autonomous learner.

When you are an autonomous learner, you need to monitor your comprehension.  You must figure out what you know and more importantly, what you do not know.  Very often, students have an “illusion of knowing,” where they think they understand the material, but when they get to the test, they realize they do not.  Students must distinguish between just being familiar with course material and truly understanding information.  This module is going to show you some notetaking techniques and different ways to study your notes that will help you take responsibility for your own learning process and become an autonomous learner.

In the following passage from Foundations of Academic Success: Words of Wisdom, former political-science student Patricia Munsch—now a college counselor—reflects on how a structured, conscientious approach to decision-making and goal setting in college can lead to fulfillment and achievement.

What Do You Enjoy Studying?

There is a tremendous amount of stress placed on college students regarding their choice of major. Everyday, I meet with students regarding their concern about choosing right major; the path that will lead to a fantastic, high-paying position in a growth industry. There is a hope that one decision, your college major, will have a huge impact on the rest of your life.

Man wearing green shirt and woven bracelets helping female student with architecture project on a drafting tableStudents shy away from subject areas they enjoy due to fear that such coursework will not lead to a job. I am disappointed in this approach. As a counselor I always ask—what do you enjoy studying? Based on this answer it is generally easy to choose a major or a family of majors. I recognize the incredible pressure to secure employment after graduation, but forcing yourself to choose a major that you may not have any actual interest in because a book or website mentioned the area of growth may not lead to the happiness you predict. . . .

Once you have determined what you enjoy studying, the real work begins. Students need to seek out academic advisement. Academic advisement means many different things; it can include course selection, course completion for graduation, mapping coursework to graduation, developing opportunities within your major and mentorship. . . .

I recommend to all students that I meet with to create their own team. As a counselor I can certainly be a part of their team, but I should not be the only resource. Connect with faculty in your department or in your favorite subject. Seek out internships as you think about the transition from college to workplace. Find mentors through faculty, club advisors, or college staff. We all want to see you succeed and are happy to be a part of your journey.


—Dr. Patricia Munsch, Foundations of Academic Success: Words of Wisdom