Lesson 1: What Matters: Reflection on Your Values, Goals and Options


This lesson is focused on reflection. In this lesson, you will have an opportunity to refine your values, as well as your academic and professional goals with an eye to determining if, when, and what kind of graduate schools may fit your needs. We'll examine what it means to be intentional about the decisions that you make. And how to find others who can help you with your decisions about graduate school.

Wherever you are in the process of thinking about graduate school, whether you're just now realizing that this may be an option, or have always thought that you would attend. I'm here to give you the tools that you need to decide if graduate school is the right choice for you. I found that students who spend the most time on reflection, determining who they are and why they want to take this next step, end up being the strongest applicants.

Your reflections about your educational interests and goals will help you articulate these interests, making it easier to find the right fit program among the thousands out there. In your self reflection, you just consider three very important things. First, your values, next, your goals, and third, the options available will help you start reviewing your values as well as your short, medium, and long-term goals, while developing strategies to meet those goals systematically.

For many of you, graduate school may have a role to play in reaching your objectives, but whether or not you see further education in your future, there's value to be found in reflection throughout your undergraduate experience. Understanding your own values and being able to express them clearly are key steps in intentional decision making. Keep a list of values in mind as you proceed through this module and during your undergraduate career.

Use your time as an undergraduate to continue to refine and test your values and assumptions. Doing so will help you understand yourself better as you think about your future options. Perhaps you already have clear personal or career goals in mind, or maybe you're using your undergraduate experience to develop your future goals.

When developing your goals, it's important to keep your values at the forefront. Your future career should align with your values. Use your time as an undergraduate to test and develop these goals. If you have something in mind, test your assumptions through internships, jobs, discussions with professors and career professionals. Once you've determined this certain direction is right for you, remember that complex goals require you to meet other, smaller goals first.

Once you've spent time thinking about what your long-term goals may look like, start breaking them down into medium and short-term goals. Think about what you can do now to work towards those short, medium, and long-term goals. Once you've finished this video, take a few minutes to break down your complex goals into smaller ones. How do you expect to attain these goals?

Do some of your goals require specialized training or practice? Are there different paths that you may be able to take to achieve these goals? The difference that you may find when you start to think about graduate school is that there are thousands of different programs to choose from. When you choose to do an undergraduate degree, you may have found that different schools have different majors and options, but most schools have very similar programs as you work towards your bachelor's degree.

So similar, in fact, that students can transfer between colleges and have their coursework transferred to different institutions. For graduate school, the choice of your program is different. You are choosing a program with a goal in mind. Often a career goal that is very specific. You are looking to receive additional credentials and training with a very specific career outcome.

In fact, the variety of options in themselves can be quite overwhelming. However, if you've taken the time to focus on your values and goals, you will be able to find the programs that are the right fit for you. While you may have to do more searching to find the right program, you will have the opportunity to find the program that is truly tailored to your needs.

Think beyond the programs that you may be already aware of. Often, these are in law, business, and medicine. There may be a program that is even more tailored to what you want to do in the future. For example, I often have discussions with veterans who are thinking about law school in order to change government policies. Through further discussion, we may find that actually, they are looking to do a policy degree rather than a law degree.

Take the time to explore with your values and goals in mind, and you will find the program that fits you. Remember, you are not in this alone. There are lots of people who are invested in your success, and everyone has something helpful to offer. The real trick is finding the right group of people to help you with a particular decision.

Try to find interlocutors to help you refine your decisions. An interlocutor is someone who knows you well, who has your best interests in mind, and who may know more than you do or something different than you do about the direction that you're trying to take. Take a look back at your goals, and think it over. As you consider the ways in which further study might support your goals, make sure to highlight potential interlocutors within your field.

Faculty members often have an excellent perspective on their field and what a successful graduate student looks like in their area. So if you're already in college, take a look at the faculty within your department. You might find some excellent advice and support close to home. You will also have alumni and others who are attending your undergraduate institution who you can ask about their work.

Your college career center may be able to connect you to those who have pursued the area that you are exploring. Seek out these people, and find out what it really looks like to work in a particular field. If you're already in an undergraduate program, or if you have not yet left active duty, you may have access to career and educational advisors.

Whether on campus or on base, make time to seek out these resources. For transitioning service members, you probably have had to meet with someone in the transition assistance office as part of your out processing. These meetings, unfortunately, tend to fill obligatory and overly systematic. With so much going on, many service members are eager to just check the box and move on.

Go back. Schedule a follow-up meeting. These resources are for you. Get as much personal assistance as you need. It may help in the long run. One parting thought.

Reflection is a continuous process. There is no final answer. You're not painting yourself into a corner. As you go through your undergraduate career, test your values, goals, and assumptions. You will accomplish some of these goals.

Refine others, and yes, occasionally, you may change your direction entirely. That's OK. You should develop positive, reflective habits of mind. It takes a little practice, but trust in yourself. Devoting time and space to your own values and goals is well worth the effort that you put into it.