A SWOT analysis is a simple, yet powerful tool used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of an entity or process. Until recently, it’s been primarily used by businesses and organisations as part of their planning and problem-solving processes. Today, personal SWOT analyses are being used for career and life planning as well as to improve outcomes and performance.
While there are many formats for the SWOT analysis, the most common one is a four-quadrant table that looks something like this:
Alternatively, you could just make lists for each category. We suggest that you use a method that makes it easiest for you to organise and understand the results that will be collected during the analysis.
Why Do a SWOT Analysis?
You may think that you already know everything that you need to do to succeed in your studies, but a SWOT analysis will force you to really examine what you’re doing and allow you to plan in new ways and see things from a new direction. Furthermore, not everyone can see their own weaknesses, resulting in lower than possible VCE marks. And when you consider that most students approach their studies in a reactive, rather than proactive, way, this can result in significantly lower ATAR results.
How Will a SWOT Analysis Benefit Me?
The point of a SWOT analysis is to ensure that you make the most of your talents and opportunities so you can reach your personal best or gain an advantage over your peers. It also helps you to address what you’re lacking, to minimise risks, and to produce a strong strategic plan and road map to help you reach your academic goals.
- A SWOT analysis will give you the opportunity to actively manage your weaknesses.
- It can help you uncover opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise have spotted.
- It shows where you currently stand on the path to success.
- You’ll be able to anticipate and manage (or eliminate) threats that might otherwise damage your chances of reaching your goals.
- It will give you the information and actions required to perform to your absolute best, maximising your ATAR result.
How Do I Do a SWOT Analysis?
First, identify the goal you wish to achieve. In terms of your academic performance, a target ATAR will suffice.
Then answer the following questions in the context of your study habits and academic goals and document your answers in a SWOT matrix, which can be found here. Answer each question honestly and transparently – a SWOT analysis is only as good as the answers you provide.
Identify Your Strengths
- What am I really good at?
- What do I do better than anyone else?
- What advantages do I have that others don’t?
- What do others see as my strengths?
- What resources/tools do I have or can draw from?
- What skills do I have that will help me achieve my ATAR goal?
- What personal qualities do I have that will assist with my studies?
Identify Your Weaknesses
- What don’t I do well? What limits me? What should I avoid?
- What personal traits do I have that may hinder my success?
- What personal qualities might I wish I had – but don’t?
- What areas can I improve on? What should I hone and practice?
- What do others see as my weaknesses?
- What tasks do I usually avoid doing?
- What are the reasons behind my failures?
- What are my negative study habits?
- What fears do I have that may be holding me back?
- What resources/tools am I lacking?
- What skills do I lack that will help me achieve my ATAR goal?
Identify the Opportunities that Could be Available to You
- What opportunities are open to me?
- What trends could I take advantage of?
- Are any of my competitors failing to do something important?
- If so, can I take advantage of their mistakes?
- What support is available to me? What/who can help me?
- What resources could I benefit from?
- How can I turn my strengths into opportunities?
- How can I turn my weaknesses into opportunities?
- How can I use my opportunities to improve my weaknesses?
- What could I do today that isn’t being done?
Identify the Potential Threats
- What threats could harm me?
- What obstacles do I currently face where my studies are concerned?
- Could any of my weaknesses prevent me from reaching my goals?
- Do any of my strengths hold me back?
- What restrictions are there on me?
- What’s changing in my life that could close options for me?
- What threats can my weaknesses expose me to?
- Do I have any obligations that may limit my chances of success?
- Who are my competitors and what are they doing?
- Where are there gaps in my resources or sources of help?
Knowing what your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are puts you in a powerful position for targeted, meaningful action.
The first step in every SWOT analysis is to look at each category and answer the following questions:
How can we use each strength?
How can we counter each weakness?
How can we take advantage of each opportunity?
How can we defend against each threat?
The next stage involves connecting categories to determine a course of action. For example:
- Looking at your strengths and figuring out how you can use them to take advantage of your opportunities.
- Thinking about how your strengths can combat the potential threats.
As a final step, you should analyse how you could turn negatives into positives. For example, how to covert your weaknesses into strengths, or threats into opportunities.
Once you’ve completed your analysis, produce a list of actions that you can take to reach your academic gaols, organising ideas in order of impact or priority. Then use your SWOT results to develop short-term and long-term goals and strategies, and document these in your diary or study planner.
Not only will a SWOT analysis give you the opportunity to learn more about your own self,
this exercise will give you a strong, well thought out strategy that will give you the best possible chances of success, and the highest possible ATAR result.
Enjoy the process!