Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Dreams goals action plan reality

Do you have dreams... or goals

We all have dreams about what might happen in our lives. You might dream of graduating college with little or no debt, or dream of a luxurious vacation, or of buying a house or even having a nice car or great wardrobe. But do you have a plan to support your dream? If not, your dreams may start to conflict with one another, and you may not realize any of them in the long run. The way to turn your dreams to goals is to have a plan!

Steps to Setting Goals

1. identify goals

Clearly identifying (and writing down) your goals is the first step to attaining them. This step is super important! You will likely have multiple goals for each of your multiple roles in life:

Your role in life and matching goals
The role in your life: The goal to match:
Student educational goals
Family Member family goals
Employee work goals
Friend social and recreational goals
Individual health and financial fitness goals
Identify Effective Goals using the DAPPS method
Effective goals have specific deadlines: "My dream is to become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor in three years."
Effective goals are realistic: "My dream is to become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor in three years and finish school with under $10,000 in debt."
Your goals, not someone else's: "My dream is to become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor in three years and finish school with under $10,000 in debt."
Effective goals focus on what you do want rather than on what you don't want: "My dream is to become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor in three years and finish school with under $10,000. I will borrow $825/term or less for tuition, fees, books, and supplies."
Effective goals state outcomes in specific, measurable terms: "My dream is to become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor in three years and finish school with under $10,000 of debt. I will borrow $825 per term or less for tuition, fees, books, and supplies. I will complete my remaining 72 credits by taking two courses each term."

2. prioritize goals

Once you have a long list of goals, you'll need to decide if they are:


Actions that will be accomplished in the next year (i.e. buying a computer, moving to a cheaper apartment or getting a roommate, taking a short vacation, getting a job on campus)


Actions that will be accomplished in 1-5 years (i.e. completing an internship, earning a scholarship, graduating from college, paying off a credit card, planning a wedding, buying a used car)


Actions that will be accomplished after 5 years or more (i.e. saving for graduate school, establishing an emergency fund, buying a house)

Now you can rank the ones that are the most important to you. It's good to keep a couple in each category, so you can maintain your focus. As you accomplish goals in each category, you can move on to the next short-mid-long-term goal on your list!

Do your goals support or compete with each other?

While in college, your goals are probably related to your education- especially your short and mid- term goals. It's important to remember though: your short and mid-term goals should support your long-term goals. If your goals seem to be competing with each other, you need to go back and prioritize again. If your long-term goal is to buy a house, you might consider if you really want that car? If your mid-term goal is to graduate from college in 3 years, but you can't afford to cut back on work or take enough classes with your current budget, you might need to make getting a campus job and reducing housing costs your top short-term priorities.

3. figure out resources

The resources and actions required to meet your goals will depend on the goals themselves. Resources can be money, time, people and/or products that are necessary to accomplish your goal.

For example, if your mid-term goal is to complete 72 credits in three years with minimum debt, you would need:

  • Money for tuition, fees, books, supplies and a bus pass
  • 8 to 10 hours to spend in class each week
  • 16 to 20 hours to spend studying outside of class each week
  • Access to a computer and printer
  • Sufficient academic skills to be successful in your classes or access to tutoring

Some of these resources are money, and some of them are people or non-monetary resources you can develop while you are taking your courses. You already know from the Academic Track that developing relationships with peers, faculty and other college personnel can provide you with access to letters of recommendations for scholarships and employment, tutoring and referrals to other resources. Remember PCC also has resources like Counseling, Advising, Tutoring and Computer Resource Centers, as well as Student Success Courses to help you get what you need and move on to your goals!

4. create action plan

Generally, an action plan has four parts:

  1. Your clearly identified goal
  2. The date the goal will be achieved
  3. The resources and tasks required to achieve the goal
  4. The activities and timelines (between now and your goal date) that help you check your progress

In Steps 1 through 3 you clearly identified your goal, set a date when it should be achieved, and identified the resources that you would need. Now all you have to do is to identify your plan to evaluate your progress! So let's look at your goal above: to complete 72 credits in three years and keep your debt under $10,000. Each term you need to ask yourself:

  • Am I borrowing $800 or less?
  • Am I successfully completing at least two courses?
  • Are the classes I'm taking going toward my degree?

If you find that you answer no to any of these questions, your action plan gets more complicated. If you are borrowing more than $800, look at your spending plan and budget to see if there are places to save money. If you are not completing your courses successfully, what actions do you need to take to improve your success in college? Step 4 is all about evaluating your progress and taking action to keep yourself on track.

Did you know...

Portland Community College offers courses that help students master the art of goal setting in every area of your life! CG 100 College Survival and Success, CG 114 Financial Survival and CG 147 Decision Making help students to identify academic, financial and life goals to experience success in college and in life!