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Strong Start: Setting Yourself Up For Success (and Realistic Expectations) in 2022

by May Melehan

As this first month of 2022 comes to a close, college students and education professionals are finding themselves amidst another time of uncertainty and inconsistency about what to expect as colleges and universities are starting back up.

While the world may feel uncertain, the ringing in of a new year and term can still provide an important opportunity to reflect on the last year and set goals for the new year ahead.

As we think about a strong start to each new term, we recommend the following four steps in order to set yourself up for success.

1. “New year, new you” might not be possible right now.

Remember that while the year is new, it doesn’t mean you are supposed to be a totally different person just because a number changed in the date!

As the COVID-19 pandemic is back for a third year, past new year resets might have looked a bit different. While it might be a new year, it’s definitely not a new world, so give yourself a little grace on how you look at this new year’s resolutions and goals.

What’s most important is setting realistic expectations and goals that align with where you are currently and that take into consideration where you want to be.

As the world continues to feel a bit unsettled, out of control, or hard right now, focus on areas of your life that are working!

2. Reflect, respond, then revise.

In order to start off on the strongest foot you need to identify your areas of strength and areas that need development so you can make changes accordingly.

Begin this year with dedicated time to assess what went well, what didn’t, and where you want to focus energy for this new year.

This process should help you to think about your overall progress, which might be responding to things that didn’t go well, congratulating yourself on achievements you did have, and then making revisions to some of the goals or practices you need to change moving forward.

No matter what you end up finding, taking the time to reflect and think about what you need in order to be successful in this new year and new term is the beginning!

3. Identify what matters most to you.

Once you have taken time to reflect and are ready to set new goals for the new year, take stock of your priorities and what matters most to you at the end of the day.

While your health, your wellbeing, and your education are likely at the top of this list, this year might have asked more of you as a family member or employee. Take that into consideration when you think about what is taking up your time and energy.

By shifting your goals and intentions to better align with your day-to-day priorities, you’ll likely feel more successful.

Additionally, understanding how your daily priorities interact with your goals will allow you to be more proactive instead of getting stuck as you encounter them.

4. Ask for help!

No one can be their best alone. We all need people to support our growth in different ways.

As you think about achieving your goals in this new year, start off by identifying the team of people you can lean on to keep you accountable, who will lift you up when you need it, and who will help you problem-solve when you’re stuck.

By putting this team in place as you begin this year, you’re already at an advantage so you know who to go to when things get rough. We recommend identifying someone from each area of your life who has your back: your CAP coach at Making Waves Foundation, a friend or classmate from school, a professor, advisor, or staff member you trust, a family member, and/or a supervisor or work colleague.

By identifying and organizing your support team early, you can be more proactive about what might be coming up in different areas of your life, and can easily call upon someone for help if things come up at the last minute!

Regardless of how 2021 closed, or how 2022 is going now, remember that a new term or year means an opportunity for a fresh start. Use these steps to evaluate where you are and where you want to be.

Remember to be kind to yourself and to be patient with the process, and don’t forget to get a little help from the community around you!


With a unique focus on college attendance and graduation, Making Waves Foundation supports historically underrepresented and underserved students in pursuing their dreams. Making Waves Academy is a public charter school in Richmond, California, educating more than 1,100 students and Making Waves Foundation’s college success program, known as CAP, provides coaching, scholarships, financial literacy, and career support for more than 500 college students as well as a network for more than 500 Wave-Maker alumni.