S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting

Goals are an important part of success. They help direct our attention and actions to what we want to accomplish. They’re motivators rooted in dreams and plans. Goals help focus our minds, teach us to manage our time and prioritize. As college students balancing all of your responsibilities and other outside factors can make achieving academic success difficult. To combat those challenges, reflecting on and setting specific goals in an achievable timeframe will help keep you on track. 

Setting goals can seem like a daunting task, especially when there could be so many things required to achieve success. One way to organize your goals is by breaking them into two categories: short-term and long-term.

Short-term goals are things you can or want to achieve soon or in a short period of time. This could mean today, tomorrow, a week or a month from now. 

Examples of short term goals:

  • Taking a class
  • Updating a resume
  • Establishing a workout routine

Long-term goals take time and planning. They are things you want to accomplish in the future. These tend to take upwards of a year or longer. 

Examples of long term goals:

  • Graduating college
  • Running a marathon
  • Learn a new language

Now that you have categorized your goals as short-term or long-term, you have to be SMART about how you achieve them. 

What are SMART goals? They are goals that are:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Relevant

T = Time-based

Specific: Your goal is clear and detailed. A good strategy for setting specific goals is to think about: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Instead of “I want to save money for a new laptop before the semester starts”. A specific goal is: “I will save $600 for a new laptop for school by putting away 20% of my paycheck into a savings account and not touching it until August 1st”.

Measurable: If your goal is measurable, you’ll be able to know when you’ve reached it. If you can’t measure it, you can’t achieve it. Think about: How many? How much? How will you know you’ve reached it?

Instead of “I want to increase my GPA”. A measurable goal is: “I want to reach a 3.0 by the end of the fall semester, by attending tutoring appointments at least twice a week, creating study blocks and tracking my assignment due dates in my calendar”.

Achievable: Your goal is achievable because it is realistic. This doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be challenging, but you must be willing and able to do what needs to be done to achieve it. Think about: How am I going to do it? Is this do-able? Have a plan!

Instead of “I want to find a job after class”. An achievable goal is: “ Go to Career Services to have my resume reviewed, apply and interview for on-campus positions as they offer good office experience and have availability around class schedules”.

Relevant: Be honest with yourself when setting goals. They should be do-able and relevant to what you want to achieve in the short term and long term. Think about: How will this be achievable? Is this a worthwhile goal? Why is this important to me?

Instead of “ I want to read 3 books a week”. A realistic goal is “I want to read more so I will set aside 1 hour a day to read a book of my interest which will allow me to become inspired to write my interest paper next month.”

Time-Based: Your goal should have a clear timeframe. Without timeframes, there is no accountability to get it done. Think about: When can I do this? Or “How long will this take?. It’s good practice to take small steps to achieve this goal so that you are on track and don’t lose motivation.

Instead of “I will work on all of my assignments for next week, tomorrow.  A time-based goal is “I will draft my paper this Friday, work on my presentation tomorrow, and submit the final versions when they’re due next week.”


SMART goal setting will help improve your focus, motivation, and discipline all the while, making your short term and long term goals a reality!

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