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College can be an incredible time of fun, extracurriculars, learning, and enjoying a hopping social life. But the fact that college life can be so full and vibrant also presents a challenge.
How do you enjoy all that college has to offer AND make sure you’re still successful in the classroom?
Between putting yourself out there in college, and the hopes of graduating with job opportunities, it’s important to have a balanced life in college. Learning to manage academic goals, with overall health, wellness, and financial goals is also important.
When you’re in college or university, your goals are clear and your priorities can be weighed towards good grades. But it’s important to remember to leave room for personal goals as well long-term goals in college.
The sooner you learn how to set balance life goals in college, the better you’ll be able to succeed in life after graduation. You’ll be better prepared to manage stress in life and work, as well as avoid overwhelm and burnout.
This post is a guide to helping you make that happen. Giving your world just a little structure and planning by setting SMART goals can help you enjoy the fullness of your college experience without stressing out over school.
Goals create a road map for anything you have to do or want to achieve. They can help you turn an overwhelming mountain of work into the steps it will take to accomplish that work and turn it into a checked-off to-do list!
How to Write Academic SMART Goals
SMART is an acronym that helps you create goals that make sense and set you up for success. Each letter refers to an aspect of a goal that you want to make sure you incorporate every time you sit down to do goal-setting.
S – Specific
People often set goals they think will move them forward. The problem is that if a goal isn’t specific, it’s hard to know whether you met the goal or not. A goal like “Do better in school” or “Spend more time doing homework” doesn’t include enough information to help you make a plan to accomplish it – or know when you did. When you create goals that are specific, there’s no doubt when you achieve them.
M – Measurable
Attaching a quantity or measurement to a goal is a great way to help define them. “Study more” is not measurable because it doesn’t include an actual amount of protein you’d like to eat. “Study for bio-chem exam 2 hours every evening after class this week” IS a measurable goal and is way more likely to help you make it happen.
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A – Achievable
When someone makes a goal for themselves that’s not realistically possible, they set themselves up for disappointment or failure. “Lose 30 pounds this week” is not a realistic (or healthy) goal. “Lose 5 pounds in the next 2 weeks” is much more achievable. The best part – starting easy builds your confidence in your goal-meeting abilities and allows you to shoot for larger goals over time.
R – Relevant
It’s important to recognize your capacity. Each of us only has so much time during the day. If you don’t need to learn Greek for your classes this semester and you’re already strapped on time, a goal like “Spend 30 minutes a day learning Greek” might not make a ton of sense.
It’s ok to make goals that are important to you but that are not important for this semester or this school year and save them for a later time.
T – Time-bound
Including a timeframe for your goals is essential to know how best to tackle them. If you have a mid-term paper that’s due a month from now, “Complete mid-term paper by Saturday” might not make sense when you have a paper in another class due on Friday! Timeframes help you set priorities as well as allow for the amount of effort it might take to complete a goal.
Incorporate these examples of academic goals for college students into your goal-setting and you might be surprised at how quickly your goal achievement changes!
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Achieving Academic Goals in College
Remember, it’s important to note that goals are almost never inherently good or bad. If you experience trouble sticking to your goals or accomplishing them the way you hope to, it doesn’t mean you’re bad at goals or that they might not be useful.
It usually just takes a little exploration in the way you’re writing your goals and incorporating them into your daily habits to see what ways you can make your goals more helpful.
Here are a couple of tips for boosting your goal game:
A. Ensure Your Goal is SMART
Are you missing any components when looking at these examples of academic goals for college students? Oftentimes we tend to miss one or two of these aspects of goal-setting that limits how helpful our goals can be.
Run your goals through the SMART list and see if you can tweak them a little bit and make them more useful.
B. Make Your Goals Visible
Sometimes it’s not your goals themselves but instead the way you interact with them throughout the week or month that could use improvement. Making goals visible and memorable is half the battle.
The possibilities for remembering your goals are endless. If you find yourself forgetting about your goals or never looking at them after you write them:
- Vould you write them on sticky notes and post them in your bathroom?
- Install a to-do list app on your phone that will send you notifications?
- Put your goals in your calendar?
- Draw them on a poster and hang them on your wall?
- Can you make a vision board to display your goals?
C. Get Motivated to Achieve Goals
Having trouble motivating yourself to achieve your goals? Add rewards! Attach something you enjoy, like food or outing or a new item you’d like to buy, to a goal and hold yourself to it.
Nothing tastes as sweet as something you’ve treated yourself to because you accomplished a goal. Even better if that reward helps you accomplish your larger academic goals, like a new laptop.
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Examples of Academic Goals for College Students
One great aspect of using the SMART goal framework is that it is relevant and helpful for any type of goal. Whether long-term aspiration or today’s to-do list, SMART goals can help you take charge of not only your week but your career plan.
Goal-making guides often divide goals into groups by length of time – short-term goals are commonly considered any goal you want to accomplish in 12 months or less, while long-term goals are those you plan to accomplish in more than a year.
6 Short-Term SMART Academic Goal Examples
Here are a few examples of short-term goals you might add to your examples of academic goals for college students:
#1. Educational goals
Set a goal for a certain grade you’d like to achieve by next semester or school year, get into the honors program, maintain a good GPA for your scholarship, or spend a certain amount of time studying for each class.
Example SMART academic goal for college: “To maintain my 3.4 GPA in my 3rd year, by studying every weeknight, forming a workgroup and getting guidance from my TA or professors before submitting any final reports.”
#2. Financial goals
Lessening or paying off your student debt, eliminating a credit card balance, or putting a certain amount of money away for savings can make excellent short-term goals.
Example of short-term SMART goal: “I will set a budget and limit my monthly spending on food to $250 by grocery shopping, meal prepping, and not eating out.”
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#3. Networking goals
You might commit to spending a certain amount of time per month attending industry events, reaching out to professionals in your city or area that work in positions you aspire to, or securing an internship with a company you might like to work for.
Sample academic goal for college students career: “This school year, I will connect with one new professional in the chemical engineering industry on LinkedIn or through the alumni association, inviting them to an informational interview.”
#4. Technology goals
Need a new computer for school? Will you be working with particular software for your classes or career? What about some advanced training that would advance your career or opportunities? These could be goals you set for yourself.
Example SMART academic goal for a college student: “By September, save $3,500 from my summer job and side-hustle to purchase a new laptop and graphic design software for my advanced level art classes.”
#5. Organizational goals
Your environment – your room, your apartment, your desk – has a huge impact on your quality of life. A simple goal like keeping your floor clear, organizing your desk, having dorm room essentials, or buying storage bins for your closet can improve how you enjoy your space as well as how you perform outside it.
Sample SMART academic goals for staying organized: “Clear out my dorm room this weekend and install a closet organization system with bins and shelves, removing all the clutter from my floors.”
#7. Habitual goals
Creating solid life habits can be incredibly valuable, especially in a college environment where life can quickly become unstructured. You could set a goal to establish a regular morning routine, a certain bedtime, or healthy eating habits.
A simple SMART academic goal for better habits: “Establish a successful daily routine for the winter semester, with a set wake-up time, nourishing breakfast, and afternoon workouts.“
👉🏽 RELATED POST: Healthy Habits for College Students
6 Long-Term SMART Goals for College Students
When looking at these examples of academic goals for college students, your ideal “goal portfolio” usually includes both short-term goals you regularly engage with and goals you’ve established for a bit farther down the line.
You might not think about these long-term goals every single day, but create a framework that helps inform your decisions and life direction. Some people write long-term goals for themselves that might take 5, 10, or even 20 years to accomplish!
Here are a few examples of long-term goals you could incorporate:
#7. Career goals
You might decide to pursue a professional certificate or training program that will enhance your resume. You could set a goal to connect with one of your faculty members and ask them to mentor you for a period of time. Or you may set a goal that identifies a job title or level you’d like to achieve in the first 1-3 years after you graduate. College is an ideal time to build a foundation from which you can launch a successful and long-lasting career.
Example of long-term academic goal for college: “Complete the Spanish language certification program before graduation by taking classes on weekends and over summer holidays.”
#8. Academic goals
Examples of academic goals for college students could include graduating with a certain GPA, ranking at the top of your graduating class, graduating with summa cum laude, or making the Dean’s List. Set goals to help you achieve those benchmarks by the time you graduate.
Sample long-term academic goal for college: “To graduate in the top 5 of my class by never missing a class, taking excellent notes, prepping for examples early, and achieving the highest grade point average on all finals.”
#9. Health goals
Healthy lifestyles take much more than doing tea cleanses and short-lived fads. Though college is a perfect time to experience the fun (and not necessarily healthy) of midnight burger runs and ice cream socials, it’s never too early to start thinking about how to cultivate healthy life habits. The best, longest-lasting health practices are ones that you incorporate slowly and a little bit at a time.
Try picking a simple eating goal that you incorporate slowly over time – limiting carb or sugar intake, saving sweets for the weekends, or finding a version of the exercise you enjoy doing a couple of times a week can make a huge difference for your health both now and way down the road.
Example of healthy academic goal for college students: “Add a side of the healthiest foods, like leafy greens and berries, to every meal I eat to boost nutrient intake.”
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#10. Time management goals
After covering all the examples of academic goals for college students to this point, time management may be the most important one. Rhythms, structure, and living proactively instead of reactively take a huge amount of practice and intentionality.
Time management goals might look like planning study time so that you don’t find yourself cramming for tests, not procrastinating writing papers, or planning out how much social time you can manage in a week so that you don’t miss classes or forget about other responsibilities.
A SMART long-term goal for students: “To start researching and writing every paper at least one month before the deadline and to finish my first draft one week before it’s due.”
#11. Relational goals
The relationships in our lives are hugely important. There are ways to invest in relationships to make them stronger and more life-giving. Relational goals could include reading relevant books, working with a therapist to help you better understand your relationships or regular interactions with members of your family or friends.
A long-term relationship goal for college: “Check in with my parents every Sunday afternoon, even for just five minutes to say hello and quickly catch up.”
#12. Mental wellness goals
Let’s face it – school is intense. It takes a lot of work and can be incredibly stressful. And guess what? That usually doesn’t go away once you graduate. Student wellness and self-care goals are powerful habits to build and strengthen while in college that will help you not just before you get your diploma but for the rest of your life. Set goals to help you incorporate rest and relaxation into your regular routine.
Read non-school books, practice taking time to rest or do something fun at least once a week, or find a hobby you can use to get out of the study grind for just an hour or two here and there.
Example of a long-term mental health goal for college: “Take a 30-minute break away from studying, reading and devices in the middle of every day, by going for a walk, sitting and meditating, or resting my eyes.”
👉🏽 RELATED POST: Mental Health Tips for College Students
Quick Tips for Goals
Now in order to make your long-term goals a smashing success, you just need a few final tips when using these examples of academic goals for college students:
- Remember: long-term goals are just that. Long-term. Start with your long-term goals and then break those dreams into smaller, shorter-term steps.
- When it gets down to it and motivation is hard to find, it’s super important to remember why you’ve set your goals for yourself in the first place. Think about your why’s and write them somewhere you can look back at on days when working towards those goals doesn’t sound appealing.
How High School Students can Prep for College Academic Goals
Are you still in high school and looking for more examples of academic goals for college students? All this info is just as helpful for you! It’s never too early to start practicing good goal habits. Examples of academic goals for high school students can be very similar to college goals.
High school is an excellent training ground where you can start experimenting with goals and finding the strategies that work best for you.
If you are a high school student with a job, if you are an employed college student, or plan to work through college, goals are even more important because the free time that non-employed students have isn’t as available to you. Plenty of helpful tips exist to jumpstart your goal-setting and prepare for juggling work and going to school full-time.
Effective goals can help turn what might otherwise be unmanageable and completely overwhelming into a very achievable path.
Get Your SMART Goals Worksheet
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Remember to Take Care of Your Mental Health!
As a last reminder – maintaining strong mental health is hugely important. Especially in a post-COVID world, college students have experienced and continue to experience significant shifts from “normal.” Everyone’s mental health is affected differently by significant shifts and experiences like the ones everyone has undergone.
As you start incorporating goal-setting into your routine, remember that your health should always come first – don’t forget healthy habits like good sleep, nutritious food, and finding time to relax.
Now use each of these examples of academic goals for college students and go knock out those goals!
How do you write an academic smart goal? Click here for 12 examples of academic goals for college students by @TheBizTechGuru #StudentLife #SmartGoals #CollegeLife #College #CollegeGoals
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More About Guest Contributor
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within a wide-range of industries including information technology, education and AI. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs in the technology and education sector.
Last Updated on January 8, 2022