IF YOU DECIDE to pursue university studies it will be important to have some clear thoughts about what you want to achieve and why. The best objectives are specific and are carefully thought through in such a way as to make them achievable within a certain time. These may include particular skills you want to develop and career paths you want to take. Factors that you need to consider when setting the objectives include your interests, career choice, and the skills and knowledge needed in that area. These elements will take you through a process of examining what it is you hope to gain from your university degree and will keep you focused on what you are striving for. After setting clear, achievable objectives, the next step is to take action - that is to use practical ways to make your objectives come true. An action plan is a portrayal of the necessary steps and tasks needed to achieve the goal. The plan chronicles in written form all the essential information that has to be gathered and lists the major tasks and phases, critical success factors and challenges ahead. Chui Yat-hung, director of the Hok Yau Club's student guidance centre, said students going on to Form Six could develop a five-year action plan for their goals. He said a comprehensive action plan should be long term and should look beyond university. It should also include strategies that need to be taken during university studies. For example, if aiming for a business degree, you have to gather relevant information about the course, take part in relevant interest groups, familiarise yourself with the business environment and investigate job opportunities in your preferred market sector. Or, if you want to be a social worker, you will have to take part in more social services activities to gain relevant work experience. Plans do not always go smoothly, so prepare for all possible contingencies. Students should develop a backup plan for their objectives. Always remember an alternative is available - and these can sometimes even work out to be the better choice. You can devise a contingency plan for switching to a secondary choice. This might be applying for a place at another university, repeating Form Five or Seven, applying for a sub-degree programme, or finding a job. Vocational training provided by the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education is a popular choice among students who wish to pursue an alternative route to mainstream education. The institution offers vocational education and qualifications to international standards that are directly applicable to the requirements of Hong Kong employers and the community. Courses are offered in three modes of study - full-time, part-time day-release and part-time evening.