If you or a family member are hoping for student success in the upcoming semester, now’s an excellent time to get SMART.
To get a jump start on a great academic year, set some college or school goals and make them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Framed – SMART. Follow these 5 easy steps and you’ll be on your way.
How To Set SMART Student Goals
Say your goal is ‘To work harder at college’. Here’s how to make it SMART.
Step 1: Make it Specific
‘To work harder at college’ is too general. What exactly do you want to be different? Do you want to take more courses? Write better essays? Do more research? Spend more time studying? Think about what actions will give you the best returns for your time and energy.
- Specific: I want to spend more time studying
- It helps if: You can picture it clearly
Step 2: Make it Measurable
How will you know when you’ve reached your goal? What’s the measurable outcome?
- Measurable: I’ll spend three hours on personal study for every 1 hour of classes
- It helps if: There’s an objective, defined outcome that you can tick off
Step 3: Make it Achievable
Reality-check time. Are you willing to do what it takes to stick with your goal? If you’re likely to feel overwhelmed and give up after a week, it’s better to choose a more achievable target you are willing to commit to.
- Achievable: I’ll spend two hours on personal study for every 1 hour of classes – that’s doable
- It helps if: Your goal and your commitment level are well matched
Step 4: Make it Relevant
You have a better chance of achieving your goal if it’s relevant to your life and other priorities. If it’s a ‘you really should’ from someone else, or a childhood plan you no longer care about, then ditch or update it.
For instance, if a friend wants you to take art classes with him/her but you have the artistic skill of a color-blind pea, choose something else. Make it relevant to your life or you’ll lose interest and motivation early on.
- Relevant: I’ll spend two hours on personal study for every 1 hour of math and science classes – which is relevant to my interest in math as well as to my goal of becoming a scientist
- It helps if: You aren’t fighting with yourself to reach your objective
Step 5: Make it Time-Framed
What’s a reasonable date or timeframe for your goal? Find a sweet spot between being so ambitious that you never really expect to succeed, and aiming so low you have zero incentive to try.
- Time-Framed: I’ll spend two hours on personal study for every 1 hour of math and science classes for each week of this semester
- It helps if: The time frame is close enough to energize you (looking too far ahead can be counter-productive if you feel like you can worry about it later)
Optimize Your Chance of Goal Success
To give yourself the best chance of achieving your objectives, use these bonus questions. They move you from planning to action.
1. What Resources Do You Need?
Make a list of all the things, people and information you need to achieve your objective. For instance:
- Take a hoodie to the library so I’m not cold
- Stock up on stationery so I can make notes
- Buy a good book on study skills
2. What Needs To Be Scheduled In Your Diary?
Most goals need time and activities – make sure you have these allocated in your diary. For instance:
- Schedule a time to go to the shops and buy your hoodie, stationery and study-skills books
- Schedule a 2-hour study session in your diary for every hour of classes you have
3. What Milestones Are Important Along The Way?
It helps keep up your motivation if you give yourself little rewards for your progress along the way. Start by deciding which milestones to reward. For instance:
- Sticking to my study schedule for the first week
- Sticking to my study schedule for the first month
- Sticking to my study schedule for half the semester
- Sticking to my study schedule for the whole semester
4. What Rewards Will You Give Yourself?
Next, choose your rewards. For instance:
- Sticking to my study schedule for the first week – Go to the movies
- Sticking to my study schedule for the first month – Go to that new club
- Sticking to my study schedule for half the semester – Get some CDs
- Sticking to my study schedule for the whole semester – Get a new cell phone
Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to student success!
How To Succeed As A Student
- Student Success Kit: How to get organized, plan a successful semester, and earn good grades
- SMART Goals Guide: Everything you need to achieve your goals