Chapter 2: Setting Goals

Defining Success

Thinking about GPA

Imagine you’ve had a successful semester, and you are proud of what you’ve accomplished. What grade point average (GPA) would you have achieved to feel a sense of success? Here’s a chart showing GPA and letter grade equivalents: 

Grade Interpretation Numerical Value # of Grade
A Excellent 4.0
A- 3.7
B+ 3.3
B Above Average 3.0
B- 2.7
C+ 2.3
C Average 2.0
C- 1.7
D+ 1.3
D Below Average 1.0
D- Minimum Passing Grade. 0.7
F Failure 0*
W Student Withdrawal *
I Incomplete *
AU Audit **

What grades do you think you’ll earn by the end of the semester in each of the courses you are taking?

Success, Key, Career, Ladder Of Success

Success in College

How do you define college success? You might think that success is earning an associate’s degree or attending classes in a four-year college. Maybe success is a bachelor’s or master’s degree or a PhD, or maybe it means receiving a certificate of completion or finishing skill-based training. Here’s a chart indicating the levels of degree, approximate associated credits, and approximate time to completion (based on 15 credits per semester):

Credential Credits Time
Certificate 30 credits 1 year
Associate’s Degree 60 credits 2 years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 credits 4 years
Master’s Degree 180 credits 6 years
Doctorate Degree 240 credits 8 years

You might be thinking of other measures of college success, too, such as grades. For instance, you might be unhappy with anything less than an A in a course. Sometimes, though, earning a B or C can feel like a true victory because of the difficulty of the course. Often success is determined by how the grade you receive impacts your goals. Do you need a certain GPA to maintain a scholarship or get into a particular program? Do you need a certain grade in order to transfer the course to another college?

You will want to keep in mind the importance of Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP. Maintaining good SAP involves keeping your GPA above a C or 2.0 and making satisfactory progress toward completing your certificate or degree. With good SAP, you’ll maintain your financial aid and stay off Academic Warning and Academic Probation. As you think about your goal GPA, keep in mind to aim high and avoid Ds, Fs, and Ws to keep good SAP.

Your Grade-Point Average (GPA)

Your GPA is a calculated average of the letter grades you earn correlated on a 0 to 4.0 scale. Each semester you receive a GPA based on the grades you earned in all of your classes during that semester. You also maintain a cumulative GPA, which is an ongoing average of all your semester grades beginning with freshman year.

Check out an online GPA calculator to keep track of where you stand and the grades you would need to accomplish your goal GPA.

Utilizing the GPA calculator

Go back to your predictions about your overall GPA and the grades you think you’ll receive in all the courses you are taking. Enter your prediction grades in the online GPA calculator along with the number of credits for each course. See what GPA you would get based on your currently predicted grades. Is the calculated GPA higher, the same, or lower than what you were hoping? If it is lower, what grades would you need to improve to get your GPA where you want it? What support or resources do you need to raise your grade?

Grades and Your First-Year Success

  • Undergraduate grades have been shown to have a positive impact on getting full-time employment in your career in a position appropriate to your degree.Portrait, People, Adult, Africa, Person
  • Grades also have been shown to have a positive net impact on your occupational status and earnings.
  • Getting good grades, particularly in the first year of college, is important to your academic success throughout your college years.
  • Grades are probably the best predictors of your persistence, your ability to graduate, and your prospects for enrolling in graduate school.
  • Top companies can have early recruitment programs that begin identifying prospective students and looking at grades as early as your sophomore year.
  • Many top clubs and major-specific organizations on campus look at your grades in the screening process.

The best advice is to commit to making your freshman year count. Make it the absolute best. The earlier you can establish good habits during this time, the easier your future years will be—not just in college, but in your work environment, at home, and beyond.

Accessing your Starfish Success Network

Starfish: MCC’s Early Alert System

Starfish at MCC is used as a support outreach tool and an appointment scheduling system, which means every student at MCC has a network of faculty and staff available to help them achieve their goals.

  • MCC students can use Starfish to make appointments with their advisors, School Specialists, and campus offices.
  • MCC faculty may raise notifications on students as kudos for positive performance, flags for feedback or suggestions to improve in class, and referrals to connect students to campus resources. These notifications will be sent to your MCC student email, and/or you may receive a phone call from someone in your Success Network.

Login to Starfish through your student portal to see who is in your Starfish Success Network!

 Develop your personal definition of success

For this activity, create your own definition of success. defines success as “the favorable outcome of something attempted.” For many students in college, success means passing a class, earning an A, or learning something new. Beyond college, some people define success in terms of financial wealth; others measure it by the quality of their relationships with family and friends.

Here is an example of a brief, philosophical definition of success:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ultimately, before we can know if we are successful, we must first define what success means for ourselves. Develop a reflection defining what success means to you in college and beyond.

To help you develop this reflective piece, you might want to consider the following:

  • Find a quote (or make one up) that best summarizes your definition of success (be sure to cite the author and the source, such as the URL).
  • Why does this quote best represent your personal vision of success?
  • What people do you consider to be successful and why?
  • What will you do to achieve success?
  • What is the biggest change you need to make in order to be successful in college?
  • How will you know you’ve achieved success?


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