Goal setting can be tricky in college. Just trying to make it to an 8 a.m. class alone can be tough enough.
On top of everything else going on in a college student’s life, there’s no clear-cut path on setting and accomplishing goals.
But there are strategies to help.
When talking to students about their goal-setting habits, the strategies are endless. From elaborate vision boards to bullet journals to daily to-do lists, lots of students have a system that works for them. If you’re just feeling lost about how to maintain goals you’ve set, maybe it’s time to start something new, like SMART goals.
The S-M-A-R-T of SMART goals stands for (s)pecific, (m)easurable, (a)chievable, (r)ealistic and (t)imely. SMART goals help you to make sure that the goals you’re setting are in reach, trackable and a part of the big picture. Let’s break SMART goals down step-by-step.
Set specific goals for yourself. Instead of trying to get better grades this semester, try to improve something specifically, like quizzes or reading responses. SMART goals are specific in order to help you break down big goals into smaller, easier to accomplish parts.
Making your goals measurable makes it easier for you to keep track. For example, if you’re trying to use social media less, try limiting yourself to a certain number of minutes or hours per day. Measuring your goals helps you see your progress and how you’re advancing your goals.
The biggest problem a lot of students run into when they set goals is setting goals that are just too out of reach. Not to say students aren’t capable, but there are probably smaller goals to work towards first. For example, say you want to be better with money. Instead of planning out a comprehensive budget that you already aren’t in the habit of sticking to, try managing one area of spending at a time. Like fast food. Making smaller achievable goals assures you that you can accomplish them.
SMART goals are realistic goals, meaning they’re relevant to other goals, responsibilities or situations in your life. Setting a goal to binge the new season of your favorite show over the weekend may not be relevant to your full-time class load and midterms coming up. Set realistic goals so that your energy and attention aren’t all in one place.
Time is another problem students run into when setting goals. There’s just never enough time. SMART goals remind us that it’s important to be realistic about the time we have to accomplish goals. Maybe you want to save $300 before spring break. If you set that goal two weeks before heading to the beach, it may be impossible or too much pressure. Setting timely goals is key to accomplishing them.
Setting SMART goals is one way to make sure you can reach the goals you set. Want to give it a shot, but still not sure where to start? Here are 10 SMART goals to set in college.
1. Go to the gym 1-2x per week.
Want to be more fit, but do you struggle with getting into a gym routine? You’re not alone. It may be unrealistic to try and set aside a specific time to go to the gym every week if you find yourself prioritizing other things. Setting a goal to fit it into your schedule somewhere at least one or two times a week is much more approachable. Need a challenge? Try three or four. Tired of lifting or the elliptical? Try a class!
2. Set aside one time every week to focus on career development.
I cannot stress this enough. Whether you’re a freshman who declared an exploratory major or a senior whose graduation is right around the corner, it’s always relevant to set aside career development time in college. If you don’t know what job you want yet, that’s okay. Start the process by seeing a career counselor or researching jobs. Setting a small amount of time aside each week can go a long way.
3. Read the news for 20 minutes every morning or evening.
It’s 2020 and you know what that means. Election season! In college, it’s important to stay informed and read the news on a regular basis. One way to stay up on all the latest news is by setting aside just a few minutes at the start or end of each day to browse the news. And don’t just skim the headlines — commit to reading a few full articles.
4. Set a budget for every night you go out to the bars.
Saving money can be hard. And after a few long islands, it just seems to disappear. If you’re like me and are trying to save money when you go out, consider budgeting a certain amount before even calling the uber. Bringing $20, $30 or $40 in cash, depending on your budget and savings, can be an easy way to track how much you spend after a couple drinks.
5. This semester, go to two call-out meetings for a couple of clubs you’ve been wanting to try.
Still looking for a place to get involved in on campus? Set a goal to attend two call-out meetings for clubs that sound interesting to you. Go to both and see which one you like better. Like them both? Even better. Have more or less time than you’d like? Set a goal of going to one less or more.
6. See a certain play at your campus theatre.
With everything going on around campus, it’s easy to miss all the awesome entertainment that colleges and universities have to offer at their campus auditorium. If you want to get in on the action, check out the seasonal lineup and set a goal to attend at least one event or show each semester.
7. Introduce yourself and meet all of your professors in office hours at least once a semester.
Your professors are a resource, and they are there for you. They’re experts in their fields, and in most cases happy to talk to you one on one and answer your questions. Getting to know your professors personally could even help boost your grade later on. Bonus: You’re going to need references when applying for on-campus opportunities, internships and jobs. Network with them now while you have the chance.
8. Drink 64 oz. of water every day.
Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. The benefits of staying hydrated are endless. Water gives you clear skin, flushes out toxins and keeps you from getting hungover. Grab a water bottle with a ounces measured on the side. This way, you can easily keep track of your water intake everyday.
9. Volunteer twice a month.
If you’re already a member of a philanthropic organization this one might be easy for you. But if you’re not, and don’t volunteer on a regular basis, volunteering is a great goal to set in college. Not only is it great for your resume, but it feels good. Giving back to your community in some way on a regular basis can help you connect with others more and feel more accomplished as a whole.
10. Spend one hour every day doing some self-care.
Last, but probably the most important of all. Say it with me. Self- care. Self- care is a vital part of staying happy and healthy in college. Everything in the world is constantly calling out for our attention. School. Work. Money. Friends. Stuff. Making sure to devote some time every day to get right with yourself can help you feel level- headed and at ease. Watch an episode of your favorite show, take a bath or practice meditation. Whatever helps you feel like a better you, take time and do it.
SMART goals are a great way to get things done in college. If you’re struggling to set and accomplish goals in your day-to-day or long- term life, try taking the specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely approach. Whatever your goals are, there are plenty of resources, opportunities and guides out there to help you succeed in college.