Upon starting up a brand new semester, every college student is given a fresh opportunity to re-evaluate his or her short- and long-term academic goals. Figuring out what you want to achieve and how you will go about it is no walk in the park, but in her book, 100% Student Success, Third Edition, Gwenn Wilson explains just why buckling down and setting academic goals is so important for college students.

Goal setting is an important part of succeeding in college. By setting goals, you accomplish the following:

    • You set a ‘road map’ for where you want to go.
    • You are able to select the most appropriate method(s) for reaching your goal.
    • You are able to more easily gauge your progress toward your goal.
    • You are able to make adjustments to your goal and methods as needed.
    • You know when you have reached your goal and can appreciate your accomplishment. (7)

Students can prioritize their academic goals based on both importance levels as well as timeliness of the projected end-dates. Some goals will be immediate tasks that must be accomplished within the next month. Other goals will be short-range of six months to a year, while others are long term and taking more than a year to accomplish.

In an article titled, “Top tips for setting goals for the new year: Academic success, career planning and more,” writers at the CengageBrainiac blog remind students that, similar to goal-setting strategies in other areas of your life, academic goals require making time and charting a practical course. “Set goals for the grades you want to earn in your classes and then work out a plan for how you will achieve those grades. Your plans will include study time spent each week, a plan for getting assignments in on time, and making time for tutoring sessions in classes where you need extra help.”

Wilson also shares a helpful list of success steps for effective goal setting and achievement. We’ve summarized them below:

  • Set goals based on something that is very important to you!
  • State goals positively. “I will study every night for two hours before doing other tasks” is more positive than “I won’t do other tasks in the evening before studying.”
  • Be as specific as possible. A goal should tell you what you will achieve, describe the conditions, and provide a time frame.
  • Set your goals high enough to be challenging but reasonable enough to achieve.
  • State your goals in writing and keep them out where you can see to remind and motivate you. Telling others about your goals can also help.
  • Focus on personal performance verses strictly outcomes. Outcomes can ultimately be affected by circumstances that are beyond your control, but performance is all up to you. For example, a fitness goal to go to the gym five times per week is more productive than a goal to lose five pounds per week. You can control your performance but not necessarily how quickly your body will react. (7-8)

When you do successfully complete one of your goals, remember to reward your accomplishments and re-evaluate your opportunities for setting new goals!

What do you find motivates you and your students most to achieve your goals? Share your ideas in the comments.

Reference: Wilson, Gwenn. 2015. 100% Student Success, 3rd ed.. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.