Social Goals for College Students (A Family’s Guide)

College students’ social development centers around managing stress and academic and general anxiety. Students will grow in the areas of self-awareness, self-management, decision making, relationship skills and social awareness. 

Many colleges offer social and emotional support to students on campus and learning virtually.

 Students and families who are concerned about mounting stress or anxiety should reach out to residence life programs or college counselors. 

Social Goals for College Students

As a general rule, college students will experience new stress in their personal life, their relationships and academic stress and anxiety. 

These new stresses require students to grow in the following areas:


I can set big goals for myself. 

I can manage my stress in class. 

I can ask for help when I need it. 

I can bounce back from a setback. 

Self Management

I can use coping skills when I experience anxiety.

I can use mindfulness to be more present in the moment. 

I can list priorities based on my own values. 

Social Awareness 

I can consistently meet expectations in class and in relationships. 

I can find ways to entertain myself. 

I can job shadow in a career that interests me. 

I can participate in meaningful volunteer experiences regularly. 

I can attend events that are important to me. 

Decision Making

I can speak respectfully even when I disagree. 

I can make decisions in line with my values. 

I can see the short and long term consequences of my decisions. 

How do you set social goals?

College students and their families should consider setting social goals as they relate to future goals. 

Set A Goal

Students in College are more than capable of setting their own goals. 

These goals should be future focused and should be measurable goals. 

Do not be afraid of big goals, as your child enters adulthood these goals should match their growing responsibility. 

Goals may be:

Make the Dean’s List

Save 5k for a new car

Stick to my grocery budget

Move Off Campus

Discuss these goals together, but let your young adult make the goals. Goals that come from them are more powerful and more likely to result in actions. 

Plan Actions

Brainstorm together about actions that you could both take that would help your young adult meet these goals. 

Be reasonable with these goals and make baby steps. 

Staying home every Saturday to study so that you can make the Dean’s list is not a reasonable goal for most students. 

Getting involved in 7 new clubs is not sustainable. 

Find some reasonable actions that align with your goals and put them on paper. 

Set a Date

Great goals have an end date. 

Put that date on a calendar, set alarms in your phone to remind you. 

This will help keep you motivated as the days tick by and you need to stay motivated to take those actions. 

Celebrate Success

When a goal is met or an action is taken, be sure to celebrate! 

Write a star on your calendar, a check on a chart or a high five. These small actions are what make the difference in achieving a very large goal. 

Keep the Conversation Going

Keep talking about goals, see if they are still aligning with your young adult’s values. Do they feel they need to adjust the goal?

How will they feel when they meet the goal?

If this goal is important to your student they may want to talk to you about it often. Be sure to ask and follow up with any actions that you committed to as well!

How to Support Your College Student’s Social Development

College students are often in a very intense time of self-discovery.

Keep an open and safe environment to discuss these new thoughts and discoveries that your young adult is sharing with you. 

Model this behavior by sharing your emotional and social challenges as appropriate with your child. These conversations can happen when you least expect it, so leave as much time as possible to spend with your young adult. 

Try New Things

New experiences can be a great way to grow together with your college students. Try visiting a new place, a new art installation, or try a new exotic restaurant. 

Ask your child if there is anything they are curious about or would like to try. 

If they are interested in skydiving, look into pricing. If they are interested in the Peace Corps, see where you can find information. 

Support these new interests, even if they seem to come out of nowhere.  

Relationships in College

Relationships in college take on a new intensity as they spend much more time with their friends. 

You can support your student’s growing relationship skills by modeling healthy relationships in your life. 

Ask questions about new friends at school and encourage participation in clubs, sports or events that will support healthy relationships. 

Make sure your home is a welcoming place for your student to bring friends to visit. 

Send treats to your students and their roommates. Show that these new friends are important to you. 

Get Resources

Concerning behavior like sudden changes in personality, depression symptoms or anxiety that is interfering with daily life should be discussed with a health care provider immediately. 

Many colleges have programs to help support the mental health of students. 

These programs may include on campus counseling resources. 

If your student is reluctant to use services on campus, make an appointment with a trusted doctor at home and be sure to follow up. 

Setting Social Goals for College

Social goals are a great way to open up important conversations with your young adult. 

You may be anxious for them to spread their wings and leave the nest, you may be feeling anxious as they make grown up choices, but by setting goals together you can work through these difficult issues. 

College students are much more aware of their strengths, weaknesses, values and priorities.

This is a wonderful time to set big goals and learn how to take steps to meet them.

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Social Goals for College Students