How High School and College Students can Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

Set S.M.A.R.T goals to take aim and focus on your next endeavor

Flickr user Adrian Nalk

  • SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
  • SMART goals help high school students, college students, and even employees design realistic goals.
  • Setting these types of goals can potentially increase the chance of achieving them.

SMART goals could be exactly what you need to meet your newest goals or resolutions you set this year!

Whether you’re creating New Year’s Resolutions or trying to get ahead of your schoolwork, setting goals is a part of our everyday lives. It gives us direction, something to aim for, and something to celebrate when we complete it.

But how often have you set a goal only for it to be abandoned a few weeks in? When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, you’re not alone. It’s been found that 91% give up on them! If you’ve given up a resolution or two in your time, you’re in good company.

Of course, though, we want to achieve our goals. One mistake many make is failing to make their goals SMART, or S.M.A.R.T. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. They’re designed to actually help you acknowledge what you want to achieve in realistic perimeters and can help make reaching goals as well as resolutions more of a reality. Here’s how you can get started.

SMART Goals Defined

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. However, you will sometimes see slightly varying descriptions of the same steps. Relevant might be realistic, for example. And measurable might be motivational. At the core, the “goal” of SMART remains the same – to help you design goals that are based in reality and increase your chances of achieving them.

Setting SMART Goals

To make a SMART goal, the person needs to meet all five requirements of the acronym. Four won’t do. Here is why each of the points of the goal is vital to success.

S: Specific

If you want to accomplish something you must know what that something is. However, it doesn’t do to be vague. For the S of SMART goals, you want to be as specific as possible.

To do this, write down what you want to achieve. Is it specific? Broad? Vague? Narrow it down and then consider all of the steps you need to accomplish the goal. Too big of a bite can result in you getting overwhelmed or distracted while trying to accomplish it all.

Remember: you can always set more than one goal and create a new one after you complete this! Being Specific helps you focus on those goalposts.

M: Measurable

This is another area in goal setting where being “vague” can really hurt you. How many times have you told yourself, “I want to get everything done”? And “getting everything done” consists of cleaning the kitchen, walking the dog, and doing a mountain of homework?

The thing is, with this non-specific goal, it’s not Measurable. There’s no way of telling you if you actually achieved your goal! After all, there will always be homework or chores to do.

By making a goal Measurable, you can quantify your desired achievement. For example, if you wanted to read more books, a specific SMART goal that is Measurable would be “I want to read one book a month.” This way you’re tracking your progress!

A: Achievable

We all have big dreams, but although you may want to be promoted to manager at your new workplace in 3 months, is it really Achievable (or Realistic)? Take the book example – one novel a month is likely achievable, but 10 books? This could be unlikely if you have a mountain of schoolwork to get done!

You want to be sure your goal is something you can do and actually achieve. If you’re not taking Achievable into consideration for your SMART goal, you might just be setting yourself up to fail.

R: Relevant

Setting a goal is a great thing – but what’s the “why” behind the goal? If you don’t know the answer to this, you could lose steam halfway through. You want to be sure that the goal you’re setting is Relevant to your studies or life in general. How will the results affect you?

For the read more books goal, you could meet this SMART goal requirement by acknowledging that reading more books will help you relax more and set aside time for something you truly enjoy.

T: Time-Bound

Goals should also be restricted by time. If you want to read more books, simply saying that does nothing. If you’re reading zero books at the moment, reading just a single book helps you achieve that goal but that’s likely not what you had in mind. Instead, adding time to the goal so it is “Read 1 book a month” helps you drive the goal.

And for schoolwork, Time-Bound may come baked into the equation. After all, your assignments have due dates, so this part of the SMART goal may already be decided for you!

8 More Tips for Setting SMART Goals

Of course, writing down your SMART goal alone simply isn’t enough. You need to put the work in! These tips will help you craft your goals and achieve them:

  • Use journals, apps, and/or calendars to track your progress
  • Write down your goal’s why and check it regularly for motivation
  • Acknowledge that it’s okay to take time off
  • Know that failure is a possibility and you can learn from it rather than beat yourself up
  • Don’t create goals that can lead to burnout even if you feel they’re achievable
  • Remember that you can always set new higher-achieving goals once you’ve completed your others
  • You can use SMART to craft short and long-term goals
  • Don’t make them so easy you complete them without trying; goals should be challenging on some level

SMART Goal Examples

Not sure what types of SMART goals you should set yourself as a student? Here are some general goals to get you started! Of course, you will want to tailor these to your own interests and personal goals – and make them SMART!

  • Tackle a new personal project
  • Learn a new instrument
  • Start a new activity
  • Find an internship
  • Apply to scholarships
  • Research and plan for your future career
  • Improve your skills (such as time management)
  • Increase typing speed
  • Improve grades or earn a higher grade on your next assignment
  • Study more
  • Get better about finishing homework on time
  • Be more involved in a club

SMART goals could be exactly what you need to achieve your dreams for the school year ahead! So which one will you be setting?

If it’s time to set goals for your college planning, College Raptor is the perfect place to start! With our College Match tool, we help you find the schools that best fit your needs, wants, budget, and more. Get started for FREE.

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