What’s the point of setting goals? For your information, all achievers set them. A male sprinter may desire to break the 10-second‘ barrier.’ A young mountain climber may want to scale K2. A goal gives you a picture of what could be in the future. It also provides you with motivation for the short term.
Do you feel like you are adrift in life, not really achieving anything worth mentioning? Have you ever had your heart set on something but couldn’t conceive of how to get or achieve it? Have you ever wanted to tackle something? Have you ever wanted to change something about your life? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then let me introduce you to the concept of smart goals for students.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym, which provides one with the criteria to manage goals. Each letter stands for a criterion needed to achieve what one desires efficiently.
S = Specific = Does your goal answer any of these questions?: Who, What, When, Which, Why
Who? You must name all people involved or those you will depend upon for the success of your goal.
What? Exactly what is your aim?
When? Specify exact time parameters
Which? Which restrictions, supplies, means, materials, assets, people… are involved?
Why? What is the purpose of this goal?
M = Measurable/Manageable - Which metrics will you use to set a parameter for your goal: Time (use hours, days, weeks… and not ‘soon’), weight, distance, number (of pages?).....
A = Attainable (and quantifiable) Is it possible? Do you have the needed skills?
R = Relevant You are a university student. Would setting a goal to run across Canada be relevant? Highly unlikely!
T = Time-bound
This idea can be used throughout your life, from studying for your exams to early retirement. Whenever you wish or need to achieve anything, try using this. Setting clear goals for yourself ensures you will enjoy greater success more consistently.
Examples and illustrations are powerful ways to broaden and deepen learning. Here are five examples of smart goals for students.
Because students usually have very hectic schedules, oftentimes, regular exercise isn’t made a priority. This often results in the student eventually not exercising at all. Everyone knows that regular exercise is essential to both physical and mental health.
Without it, students’ academic performance(s) often becomes sub-optimal. Let’s take a look at an example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal for exercise: I want to complete a 5 km run by the end of this school year.
Specific: This goal is specific: 5 km by April
Measurable/Manageable: 5 km is measurable.
Achievable: For most students, this is a manageable distance to run. Plus, there is sufficient time allotted.
Relevant: Regular exercise has been shown to improve academic performance
Time-bound: the beginning of September to mid-April = 7.5 months
To explain further: Let’s work with an example. ‘Skip’ has a twelve-chapter book to read and then summarize by the end of term. His S.M.A.R.T. goal might look like this, at first.
Specific: Read the 12 chapter book. Summarize the book.
Measurable/Manageable: One half of his time to read it and then ¼ of his time to summarize. (Allowing for life’s hiccups)
Attainable: Of course, Skip can manage to read and summarize the said book in two months.
Relevant: If Skip doesn’t do it, he fails his course. This is relevant to not only this course but to his long-term goal of graduation.
Time-bound: The bigger goal of completing the assignment is time-bound by the two months remaining before the end of term.
This is where it is important to break down Skip’s bigger goal (Finishing the assignment) into smaller goals to make each step more manageable and less stress-inducing.
A better S.M.A.R.T. goal might look like this:
Total time = 2 months = 60 days.
12 chapters = ½ the total time = 30 days.
So, Skip has 2.5 days to read each chapter.
And then, Skip has 15 days to summarize each chapter. But, wait, if he summarizes each chapter while it is still fresh in his mind, it will take a lot less time. If he summarizes each chapter in a half-day, his total time per chapter will only be 21 days.
Can you see that Skip will have no problem achieving his goal of reading and summarizing the book? He may even consider changing his schedule to achieve this goal to allow himself to enjoy a little university life!
Now, don’t you think it was smart of Skip to use S.M.A.R.T. goals for students?
I need to meet with each of my professors within the first two weeks of this semester. This will enable me to get a feel for their expectations. It may also enable me to establish a ‘link’ with them.
Specific: 6 profs in 14 days
Measurable: Yes, there are two parameters, the number of profs and the time allotted.
Achievable: Unless the profs cannot give me a time that works with my schedule, this should be possible.
Relevant: Doing this should improve my semester.
Time-bound: Yes. Two weeks/14 days If I can meet with one every second day, I will achieve my goal.
I want to send out 10 university applications by Dec.. 1st. This might allow me to apply to a few other schools that I may develop an interest in.
Measurable: Yes, both time and number of applications are measurable.
Achievable: It’s now September 1st. That gives me 3 months to research universities that provide my desired program and gather or arrange the other requirements for my application: See college application checklist. If I set a schedule and follow it, this is achievable.
Relevant: My goal for next year is to attend a college with my desired program. This is one of the most important steps I have to undertake.
Time-bound: I have 3 months to complete all this, so I must set a rigorous schedule.
I need to write a Statement of Purpose as part of my applications to colleges. I will have to adjust them a little for each college as the programs and situations, and/or requirements may vary.
Writing a scholarship essay isn’t a lot different from the SOP essay. Once you have learned proper essay writing formats, you will be able to ‘crank’ essays out in no time. Here, you can read a complete guide on how to write a statement of purpose.
I want to study in Canada.
To set a goal that might be achievable, this student needs to be specific (Who, What, When, Which, Why). They need to decide what they want to study. Let’s say architecture.
The next step for them is to figure out how they can make their goal measurable. Perhaps they could choose to send “x” number of applications.
How can this student make the goal more likely to be achievable? They might say that they will send the applications by Jan. 1st, which is slightly ahead of most school’s deadlines.
Relevant is what they need their goal to be. Is it now (Once put together)? Yes.
Lastly, is the matter of being time-bound. ? Sending the applications by Jan. 1st isn’t quite enough, for this student still needs to find the funds to attend school in Canada. So, if they put, under ‘time,’ next year, this will give them enough time to achieve all the smaller goals they need to accomplish en route to the bigger goal.
This student’s goal might be, Next year, I want to study architecture in Canada and send in 10 applications before Jan. 1st. To make this task easier, I would suggest the student break the task of sending applications into smaller goals. If one looks at the Checklist for College/University applications, this gives one several steps(goals) to address.
Here’s another underdeveloped goal: I want to save enough money to pay for my tuition. Is it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound? I’d say it only satisfies the relevant criteria. Why don’t you try making this into a S.M.A.R.T. goal? You may use the table below to keep your criteria sorted.
Here’s a list of S.M.A.R.T. goals listed by topic:
I will become a better presenter by next year. To do this, I must gain more confidence in speaking in front of a group of people I don’t really know. I will take a TED Masterclass in public speaking, and then I will join a Toastmasters group for the rest of the year.
To one day move up the corporate ladder, I will update my resume with relevant qualifications, so I can apply, by the end of the month, to take the inhouse department supervisor training,
I will get qualified to become a crew leader by completing the required courses in the next 12 months and applying for the position at this time next year.
I will become a better customer service representative by learning more about our products/services each week for the next 16 weeks. This may qualify me to become the supervisor when ‘Jane’ retires next year. I will arrange meetings to speak with a service manager, a technical manager, and my direct supervisor to gain as much information about each service/product as possible.
To feel closer to each other and feel less stressed in each other’s presence, we will spend one evening a week having a ‘date night.’
To strengthen the bonds in our family, we will designate Monday evenings as family time. All members of this family must attend every week. As a family, we will choose the evening’s activity one week in advance.
I will improve my communication skills over the next year by practicing active listening, learning about nonverbal communication, participating in Toastmasters to improve my public speaking skills, and asking for feedback from my peers.
By next year, I will minimize my fear of public speaking by joining the weekly meetings of my local Toastmaster group.
This week I will create a calendar where I can time-block my schedule so that I may be able to average the time I spend with each employee.
To help maintain my mental health, I will exercise for one hour, four times a week. This will be broken into 4 half-hour sessions of cardio and 4 half-hour sessions of weight training.
To decrease my level of anxiety, I will take a 6-week online course in Mindfulness and practice it every morning for 10 minutes.
The whole idea of setting goals may have been a daunting task to you before. Now you have learned how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. You may have also realized that you may need to break larger goals into smaller ones to be less daunting.
Goals help people focus. They also provide you with a sense of mastery.
Hopefully, you have also realized that you must quantify it to manage something, and you can’t improve on something without managing it. Another concept to think about is that we don’t value things in the future as much as we do today.
The types of goals you set will change over the years. Hopefully, by learning and practicing S.M.A.R.T. goals for students now, your life will be made much simpler.