Use the SMART System to Set Your Educational Goals

Goal setting may sound like something you do perhaps daily, weekly, monthly or for longer terms. But did you know there is a systematic way to set goals for your success? It can be applied to your education now and to the career you are trying to develop. The SMART system helps you set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. The fact that you are thinking about enrolling in school or are already attending school means you have, to some degree, applied these standards. Here are some other things to consider when setting goals:

  • Specific: Dr. Edwin Locke, a pioneering psychologist in the study of goal setting and motivation, found that individuals perform better when their goals are specific and difficult rather than vague and easy. For instance, if you are studying for a test, don’t just tell yourself, “I’ll be happy if I get an A.” Instead, say, “I am going to get a 98 percent on that test.”
  • Measurable: What is a goal without accountability? The fact is you are used to accountability and have experienced it since kindergarten. At the university level, grades remain an important part of accountability, but so does follow-through. That’s what will help your transcript become rounded out each term as you complete classes toward your degree.
  • Attainable: You’ve already decided to continue your education, so you’ve also decided a post-secondary education is attainable. But as you choose your classes and your major, try to make sure they are attainable too. For instance, if you aren’t particularly math savvy engineering may not be the best degree choice for you.
  • Relevant: This may seem like a no-brainer, but in order to reach your goal of a degree, the course work and subject matter should consist of the courses required for your degree. To that end, your advisor can help ensure that you are taking the right courses and that you remain on track for graduation.
  • Time-bound: A variety of factors may influence your completion of college, including family and work commitments as well as financial need. But it’s important for each student to start out committed to completing a degree within a specified period of time. Discuss your individual timeframe with your advisor as it will depend on many factors such as any prior learning experience. Identifying and working toward your completion date will help you stay motivated to achieve your goal of finishing your degree.