Setting SMART Goals for the New School Year

With the new school year comes opportunities for growth and improvement. By setting well-defined goals for themselves, students can ensure they will be fully prepared to take on a new year of learning! Here are some important questions you should ask yourself to help set SMART goals for the new school year.

Before we start, let’s do a quick refresher on SMART goals. SMART is an acronym to help remind yourself what to focus on when setting goals!

  • S – Specific: Your goal shouldn’t be vague. Try to be as specific as possible when outlining your goals!
  • M – Measurable: Your goal should be tangible. You want to be able to easily identify your goal and measure progress as you work towards it.
  • A – Attainable: Your goal should be realistic. Although it’s great to dream big, make sure your goal is something you can accomplish reasonably soon.
  • R – Relevant: Your goal should be tailored to your aspirations, but also your personal strengths and weaknesses. Make sure your goals are relevant to what steps you need to take in order to succeed.
  • T – Timely: Your goal should be attainable for you in a reasonable time frame, and make sure you have clearly set deadlines and schedules during your progress.

Try to keep SMART guidelines in mind when planning out your goals!

1. What can I improve? Learning from our mistakes is one of the best ways to figure out what to do differently next time! Consider what parts of the school year you found particularly difficult – perhaps a specific class subject or a large format exam. Whatever the situation might be, try to come up with specific strategies to prepare for these challenges ahead of time. For instance, if a student knows they will be taking a math class they’ve had difficulties with in the past, researching options for additional resources in advance (like tutoring programs or study groups) is a good option!

2. What worked well? Think about what made the last school year awesome! Perhaps you were involved in an extracurricular activity or chose to take certain elective courses. If you’ve found a subject or area at school that you find enjoyable, by all means keep doing it! Students that are happier and more involved at school tend to have a more positive attitude towards learning, and receive better grades in general.

3. What would I like to accomplish? Consider if you have any specific, measurable goals in mind. Maybe you want to aim for a certain grade point average, or achieve a certain score in a challenging class. Whatever that goal is, make it your finishing point and start planning out the steps backwards on how to get there. For example – if you know you want to raise your GPA to a certain number, figure out how many A’s or B’s you will need to get there. Then, start thinking about how to do it – which grades can be easily raised? Which classes will take extra effort to maintain a higher score? Ask yourself what steps you need to take in order to reach your goal.

4. Which goals should be a priority? It’s always a good idea to make sure you’ve highlighted your non-negotiable, top-priority goals. Some academic responsibilities unfortunately don’t have a lot of wiggle room, and it’s important to know ahead of time what should be on your radar for the upcoming year. Here’s a few examples of what we’d consider “strict” priority goals:

  • A student beginning 11th grade wants to apply for the National Merit Scholarship. The only opportunity for them to do this will be during their junior year PSAT, after which the opportunity will no longer be available. Knowing important registration and test dates ahead of time would be a top priority goal.
  • A student beginning senior year (12th grade) is planning to start applying for colleges. However, the university they are interested in requires three years of foreign language, and they’ve only completed two. Taking a third year foreign language class to submit conditionally on your university application would be a top priority.

Whatever your goals may be, try your best to plan out stepping stones in advance while keeping a close eye on your top priorities.