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Strengthening Students’ Goal-Setting, Grit, and Growth Mindset

Faculty and staff in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs work hard to help students succeed. In 2021, DASA units used data to take actions in support of students’ goal-setting and goal achievement.


The Retention Foundations Assessment (RFA) initiative in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs (DASA) brings faculty, staff, and students together to produce actionable data on the factors that influence NC State students’ success and retention. In 2020, DASA brought together an Implementation Team of division faculty and staff to review data collected about NC State students’ goal-setting, passion and perseverance toward those goals (otherwise known as “grit”), and growth mindset in their progress toward their goals. The team used data from a locally-developed survey instrument about these topics, which was distributed to NC State sophomores in fall 2019. Focus group data from spring 2020 (before the move to virtual operations) about NC State students’ long-term goals supplemented the survey findings. All data shared on this page are from the fall 2019 Grit and Growth Mindset Survey of NC State sophomores (n=260, 17% response rate) and the spring 2020 focus groups conducted by DASA Assessment (n=15) with students of mixed class standings about their experiences setting and pursuing long-term goals.

The implementation team’s review of quantitative and qualitative data found that students tend to be passionate about their long-term goals and confident in their ability to reach them. The team identified areas in which students could use additional support in following through with actions to accomplish their long-term goals.

Student Strengths


of surveyed sophomores report it is “mostly” or “very much” like them to set long-term goals.


of surveyed sophomores “mostly,” “strongly,” or “very strongly” agree their goal is a passion for them.


of surveyed sophomores report it is “mostly” or “very much” like them to have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.

Opportunities to Provide Support

Creating Alternative Plans

30% of surveyed sophomores report it is “not at all,” “not much,” or only “somewhat” like them to consider obstacles that might get in their way when setting a long-term goal.

Almost all focus group participants reported they do not have a backup plan in the event of setbacks toward their long-term goals.

Seeking Feedback

57% of surveyed sophomores report it is “not at all,” “not much,” or only “somewhat” like them to get feedback on their long-term goals from advisors, faculty, and/or mentors.

Some students in focus groups who reported feeling hesitant to seek out feedback about their long-term goals felt afraid that their goals would be criticized or that feedback is unnecessary.

Taking Action

55% of surveyed sophomores report it is “somewhat,” “mostly,” or “very much” like them to have difficulty maintaining their focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.

Student focus group participants reported experiencing “internal” obstacles toward goal achievement, such as overthinking, worrying about the goal, and practicing self-discipline.

Sharing Findings

In 2020, DASA Assessment created an infographic of the most actionable findings for DASA that were identified by DASA faculty and staff in the Implementation Team. The infographic was shared within DASA digitally and through unit-level workshops. 7 DASA units participated in customized workshops facilitated by Implementation Team members from across the division. Units used the data that was presented to brainstorm opportunities for improvements in students’ long-term goal planning and achievement. 6 units who received a workshop reported making changes to their programs and practices based on these findings.

Data-informed Decisions

In Conversations with Students

  • Advisors in Academic Advising Programs and Services began incorporating more conversations about making alternative plans in student advising appointments. Advisors leverage digital advising tools and empower students to take initiative by learning about alternative majors or paths toward their long-term goals.
  • The Academic Success Center has started wellness check-ins with tutors, in which tutors can discuss how their tutoring work fits into their other goals, discuss any difficulties they may be experiencing, and learn about what support resources they could be using.
  • In their work with University Activities Board (UAB) leaders, Student Leadership and Engagement spent more time with students practicing making alternative plans for UAB programming and discussing the benefits of creating alternative plans in students’ own lives.
  • The Office of Student Conduct increased their encouragement of students to seek feedback about the impact of academic integrity violations from advisors in their field, in order to better understand the impact it may have on professional prospects.

Student Resources and Learning Opportunities

  • The Career Development Center (CDC) included more tools for creating alternative plans into the Career Identity Program, which serves students who are exploring potential paths in their college careers and beyond. The CDC also plans to increase enrollment in the program by expanding recruitment avenues on campus, in order to help more students develop informed alternative plans.
  • Student Leadership and Engagement created consistent messaging to student employees about their vision and goals across programs in the unit and at different points in time, including the new Student Employee Onboarding process.
  • Academic Advising Programs and Services added more content to Exploratory Studies classes and the Career Connections Program about how alumni have overcome setbacks and succeeded using their alternative plans. These additions are meant to help students learn that their paths toward their long-term goals do not need to be linear.
  • The Academic Success Center began offering supplemental training opportunities for tutors to make connections between their short-term goals and longer-term goals.

Faculty and Staff Work

  • Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes created internal working groups to incorporate content about passion, perseverance, and resilience toward long-term goals into Summer Start, USC classes, and sophomore programs.
  • Academic Advising Programs and Services included time in staff meetings to review new information about available NC State majors, and practice with relevant examples of student advising situations, to keep staff up-to-date on alternative academic paths for students.