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SMART Goals for College Students: What You Need to Know

SNU SMART Goals for College Students

If you’re like many other college students, your home is littered with to-do lists and your notebooks are filled with goals. Taking actionable steps toward your dreams requires much more than just jotting down a list. Excelling in school requires setting your sights on a goal and devising a specific plan to get there. 

SMART goals for college students can make the process seamless and stress-free. Here’s what you need to know about intelligent goal-setting:


Setting SMART Goals:
What You Need to Know

SMART goals are the counterweight to the many to-do lists you have lost or discarded. The acronym is as follows: 

  • Specific: Your goal must be specific. For example, you might replace “Get better grades” with “Be consistent in studying for my courses.”
  • Measurable: Unlike the amorphous goals on your to-do list, SMART goals are measurable, enabling you to make progress. So instead of “be consistent in studying for my courses,” you might say, “dedicate one hour every other day to studying for my courses.”
  • Achievable: In an ideal world, you could do anything you set your mind to. In reality, finances, time and skill limit your options. That’s why SMART goals must be achievable with effort. Maybe the one hour every other day doesn’t work with your schedule. Instead, you can study for 30 minutes every day so the goal better suits your lifestyle. 
  • Relevant: Relevant goals have a purpose and are ideally part of a larger plan. For example, if you want to get better grades to graduate with honors, your study habits should be relevant to that long-term goal.
  • Time-bound: The best goals have a date attached to them. Otherwise, they become part of a distant pipe dream. Don’t resolve to get better grades “someday.” Resolve to study for one hour every other day by the end of the year. 

SMART goals for college students focus on getting into school, excelling in class and channeling academic experiences into lucrative and fulfilling careers. This approach to goal-setting is structured, realistic and tied to your daily life. SMART goals help you devise monthly, weekly and daily schedules that get you closer to attaining your ideal life.


Creating SMART Goals: Tips and Tricks

So how can you use SMART goals to achieve your long-term career goals, especially in the wake of COVID-19, changes in workplace norms and higher costs of living? Goal-setting is all about identifying your dreams, then mapping a path to make them a reality. Start by asking yourself these questions: 

  • What would I most like to change about my life, especially my career? 
  • What are my unique talents? What sort of work do I enjoy? 
  • Which jobs would be most suited to my talents and interests? 
  • What specific training do I need to be competitive in my ideal job? 
  • Do I have any academic credit toward my ideal degree? 
  • What do I need to do to enroll in school? What papers, forms and financing do I need? 
  • How long will it take me to graduate? Is there anything I can do to graduate faster? 
  • Which school offers the best value for my money? Can I find a school that offers credit for learning obtained through life experience
  • How can I structure my life in a way that supports my academic success? 
  • Are there any workplace hurdles I must overcome to balance work and school? 


Getting the Most Out of Your Education: SMART Goals by Educational Stage

SMART goals for college students can guide you throughout your academic journey. Asking the right questions at each stage can help you structure SMART goals tailored to your specific needs.


Considering a Return to School 

As you consider a return to school, you need to weigh the risks and benefits of returning, then set specific goals to get more information. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Are there barriers preventing me from returning to school? (Financial issues, defaulted student loans and lack of childcare are common barriers.)
  • Is there a degree program that caters to my specific strengths? 
  • How much time do I have to devote to school? Can I find a school that fills — but does not exceed — this time? 
  • Where do I want to attend classes? Would I prefer online learning? 
  • Which schools have the best reputation in my chosen field? 


Applying to College 

You will need to put together a competitive application. Applying to college requires a great deal of paperwork. The following questions can help you set clear goals: 

  • What paperwork needs to be completed? 
  • Do I need to reach out to people for recommendations? 
  • What financial forms must I complete? 
  • What are the deadlines for application? 
  • Do I have to complete any standardized tests or essays? 
  • How and when do I send my application packet? 


Excelling in Class

Once you enroll in college, setting SMART goals can help you excel in your coursework. These questions can help you set thoughtful goals: 

  • How much time do I need to study per month? Per week? Per day? 
  • Which study strategies work best for me? Should I join a study group? 
  • Where do I want to study, and what can I do to make my study location more comfortable? 
  • What projects must I complete? How can I break these projects down into smaller chunks? 
  • Do I need to learn new study skills or change the way I prepare for exams? 


Preparing for Graduation 

Graduating on time can save money and ensure a swift and effective launch into the career of your choosing. These questions can help you set SMART goals to graduate: 

  • What classes do I need to take to graduate? Do I have to take them in a specific order?
  • Do I need to complete any additional projects to graduate? 
  • Do I need to fill out any paperwork to graduate? 
  • Are there any barriers to graduation, such as a failed class I need to retake?


Landing a Great Job

Planning for the job of your dreams begins the moment you enroll in school. Setting clear goals early on can improve your chances of getting a great job. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Are there internships or summer jobs that can help me get my foot in the door? 
  • Which classes will help me master critical job skills? 
  • Does my school offer career services that can help me? 
  • How long does it typically take to find a job? 
  • Can I master job-seeking skills with a resume-writing class?


Making Your SMART Goals a Reality

A key aspect of setting SMART goals is finding the strategies to achieve these goals. For adult learners, a higher learning institution that offers the right support is critical. As you set your educational goals, be sure to ask yourself the following: 

  • How will I fit school into my schedule?
  • Do I need support? What is my childcare plan? 
  • Do I need to change my work schedule? 
  • Is online learning a good option for me? 
  • What sort of financial support do I need? Can I apply for financial aid
  • What is my plan for networking during school? 
  • When will I study? 
  • What degree program caters to my interests and skills? 

Addressing each of these questions is key to formulating your SMART plan for graduation and beyond. Choosing a school that caters specifically to adult learners can bring your dreams within reach. 

SNU offers flexible scheduling, an innovative cohort model, extensive financial support and plenty of experience helping adult learners. We help you gain the skills you need to be competitive in today’s working world and offer career services to help you find the job of your dreams. We are also known for our award-winning VETS Center, which helps our nation’s service members make their dreams a reality. 

Ready to achieve your SMART goals and pursue your education? Learn what to  expect from an online education at SNU.

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