College Goals: What is Your Purpose?

If you know what you want to do in the future, great! There are steps you can take in high school and beyond to set yourself up for success.

Not sure what you want to do? That’s OK too. You’re not alone.

Many people try different things before they discover their purpose. And guess what? Your purpose may change over time. Plenty of people find success in something and then move on to something else.


What’s my purpose?

Your purpose is your core life goal. Think of it as your path in life. Finding your purpose gives you a sense of direction and meaning. It helps you answer the questions: What do I want to do? Where am I going? Why does it matter?


How do I find my purpose?

What are you good at? Passionate about? Is it a talent you have? A career goal? A deep desire to help people or change something for the better?

Once you’ve identified your passions and strengths, you can start building the skills you need to be successful in your chosen path. These skills may be centered around academics, a talent, a particular career, or building your confidence and interpersonal skills. Chances are you’ll need to work on several skills. No matter where you are in life, there’s always room to learn, grow, and change.


Where to begin?

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t stress. There’s no deadline for finding your purpose.

Take a look at the box below. Which “purpose” seems most like you?


Career Purpose Orientation

You are focused on your career goals.

Altruistic Purpose Orientation

Your goal is to support your community.

Interpersonal Purpose Orientation

Your goal is to have happy relationships.

Self-oriented Purpose Orientation

You are focused on your future lifestyle.


Choose one and then write a few sentences about why it seems like a good fit.

Then, make a list of steps you can take now and after high school graduation to get there.

Not sure which one is the best fit? Try them all on for size!

Jot down a few sentences and the skills needed to fulfill each “purpose.” Take your time and feel free to add and revise as you go along. Remember: This is just an exercise. It’s your time to plan and reflect. You’re not committing to anything.

And when you’re ready, share your notes with your school counselor, a parent, teacher, or another adult you trust. Ask them for feedback!


Want some inspiration?

Check out these free resources to help you explore career options and goals.

Big Future and Career Matters offer career search tools. Search on your own or answer a few questions you’ll get a list of career options to learn more about.

Career Village is an online service where students can ask questions about a career and then are matched with a professional who will answer them and offer advice.

CareerOneStop is a career, training, and job search website run by the U.S. Department of Labor that features a variety of online tools, information, and resources.

Roadtrip Nation is a remarkable website packed with award-winning documentaries that will inspire you — and assure you that your moments of doubt and uncertainty are normal on the road to building a fulfilling life.


Parents, counselors, and educators: Need help supporting students?

The education non-profit New Visions for Public Schools developed an entire curriculum to guide students with their post-secondary goals. The lessons are designed for use by counselors and educators, but parents and students may find plenty that’s helpful by browsing the material on their own.

Start with the lesson Finding My Purpose, which is packed with advice and resources to help students reflect on potential paths forward.

Then, review New Vision’s entire Purpose First curriculum. It offers a broad range of lessons and resources on topics such as taking a career inventory, vision planning, post-secondary goals and choices, resumes, standardized tests, understanding transcripts, financing college, and more.