What Are College Students' SMART Goals? (With Benefits)

Updated July 5, 2022

Setting goals often helps college students achieve academic and professional success. Using SMART goals can help students make achievable, relevant and positive goals for their future. New and existing college students may benefit from learning about these goals to develop healthier habits in school and to establish clear career objectives. In this article, we discuss what college students' SMART goals are, their benefits, 12 examples of SMART goals and tips for achieving them.

Related: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

What are college students' SMART goals?

College students' SMART goals are goals that students can clearly define for themselves. These goals often help students set both short- and long-term objectives and decide how to achieve them. "SMART" is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Here's a list of explanations for each part of the acronym and what they mean:

  • Specific: This means knowing exactly what you want to achieve, including the details of each objective, such as what you want to accomplish and when or why you want to achieve this goal. Making specific goals can help you break down larger goals into smaller, achievable objectives.

  • Measurable: This means evaluating ways to see whether you're meeting your goals, or creating criteria to measure the progress toward a goal. Measuring the progress of your goal may help you stay focused and track your actions.

  • Achievable: This means developing how you can reach your goals, such as evaluating the skills, attitudes, resources and opportunities that may bring you closer to completing your objective. This may include first establishing and following smaller goals, then slowly moving on to larger objectives.

  • Realistic: This means creating a relevant and sensible goal, such as one that resembles similar goals you've achieved or one that relates to your career, grades, hobbies or general direction. A realistic goal may be one you truly believe you can accomplish with the resources you have.

  • Time-bound: This means creating a goal you can reasonably complete within a specific timeframe, such as getting an A in a class by the end of the semester. Time limits can help you create a structured plan that includes smaller goals you can complete throughout the time frame.

Related: How To Write A SMART Goal (And How They Work)

Benefits of college students setting SMART goals

Setting SMART goals in college has many benefits, such as helping you plan for the future and keeping you motivated while you pursue your degree. Here are other benefits that may result from setting SMART goals:

  • Creating a plan for your career

  • Researching career opportunities

  • Establishing a healthier lifestyle

  • Getting involved with your campus

  • Forming a steady routine or schedule

  • Finding a mentor for career guidance

  • Improving and maintaining good grades

  • Making connections with other students

  • Pursuing career development opportunities

12 examples of college students' SMART goals

Here's a list of 12 SMART goals that college students often set, along with explanations for how to set them and the benefits of each one:

1. Set and stick to a reasonable budget

Setting a budget often helps students save their money and reduce extra spending on things like fast food. Giving yourself a certain amount of money to spend on excess purchases every month may help you put more money toward essential purchases, like groceries, school supplies or clothing. You may also consider carrying cash when you shop or go to a restaurant to help you track how much you're spending.

2. Get involved with campus activities

Getting involved on campus may help students connect with their university, find hobbies they enjoy, meet new people, form friendships and travel. Campus activities may include community cleanup events, helping move freshmen into their dorms or volunteering during visitor tours. To get involved on campus, consider taking part in a small event first, such as karaoke night or a bonfire to gauge your interest level in that type of activity.

3. Gain experience with an internship

Internships often help students gain practical experience in their fields or test career options. They also may lead to full-time job positions and build your resume. Your goal could be to find an internship within a certain time period. To find an internship, you could research local internship openings, search for remote positions, talk to your professors and consult with your university's career center. Consider setting a time limit for each step of earning an internship to help keep you motivated.

4. Have a 3.0 GPA when you graduate

Setting goals for academic success upon graduation may help some students continuously work hard in their classes and develop the knowledge and skills required for their careers. You might break this goal into smaller, short-term goals, such as completing all your homework on time for a challenging class. Since this goal typically spans four years or the length of a bachelor's program, some students may modify their GPA goals depending on their degree.

5. Join an extracurricular organization

Extracurricular organizations, such as sports or art clubs, often help students relax outside of class, pursue hobbies, meet others with the same interests and give back to the community. If you want to join an extracurricular organization, consider researching groups on campus or communicating with a group's leadership team to learn more about what they do. Most organizations allow members to join freely, while some may require a small membership fee to pay for trips or shirts. You may also choose to attend campus organization fairs, where clubs set up booths with club information for interested students.

6. Get accepted to a specific university

If you're planning to go to college or graduate school, you may benefit from applying to multiple universities so you can expand your search. Applying to multiple universities may also give you options when you receive multiple acceptance letters. Consider setting a time limit in which you send all of your applications because sometimes they take weeks to process. Also, consider evaluating how many universities you can reasonably apply to during that time.

7. Maintain healthier sleeping habits

Establishing healthy sleeping habits often helps people maintain their energy during the day, stay focused and improve their immune systems. If you want to improve your sleeping habits, consider setting a strict bedtime for each night, excluding weekends. You may also consider reducing your screen time and starting a nightly routine to help you prepare for sleep.

Related: Guide To Creating SMART Goals for Time Management

8. Organize your living or study space

Neat and organized living and study spaces help some students limit distractions, reduce stress and make them feel more in control of their environments. You can begin organizing your space and maintaining a clean environment by setting small goals, such as cleaning your table after eating or removing extra cups and water bottles from your bedroom. You may also maintain a clean living and study area by creating a weekly chore list.

Related: 11 Tips on How To Organize Your Desk Like a Pro

9. Form friendships with your professors

Forming a friendship with professors often helps students seek academic and career advice or resources for future opportunities. Most professors are experts in their fields and may provide you with networking opportunities. Being friends with your professors may also mean they can write you a recommendation letter for jobs and internships in the future. If you want to form a friendship with your professors, consider meeting with them throughout the semester to first introduce yourself, then discuss grades and department-related news.

10. Establish a regular self-care routine

Reserving time to take care of yourself is important because it often helps you relax and improves your mental and physical health. This may include meditating, taking a long bath, watching your favorite television show, doing something creative or listening to music. Consider reserving one night a week for self-care or an hour each night depending on your lifestyle.

11. Read a non-school-related book

Reading for pleasure often helps students relax, relieve stress and improve their focus. Fiction may help students take a break from school and nonfiction may help them learn new things. If you want to read for fun, consider replacing some of your screen time with reading and setting a goal for a certain amount of words or pages to read every week.

12. Set your long-term career goals

Setting career goals often helps students plan their college careers and decide on degree programs and courses. These long-term goals often leave room for modification and adjustment depending on the university, your degree requirements or whether you change your major. Consider setting smaller, achievable goals throughout your college career that may help you achieve your career goals after graduation. This may include getting internships, networking or applying for jobs during your last year.

Tips for achieving SMART goals

Here's a list of tips that may help you achieve your goals:

  • Attend your classes: Consistently going to class, taking notes and reading the assigned materials often helps students become familiar with the course and learn new information. Attending class and taking notes may also help you study for exams.

  • Study for your exams: Studying is one of the most important ways to learn the skills and information required for your career because it helps you retain information that you may use after graduation.

  • Evaluate your courses: When you enroll in classes, evaluate the importance of each course and how it may help you earn your degree or benefit your career. For example, you may evaluate the benefits of taking a degree-related elective instead of an easy, unrelated course.

  • Develop hard and soft skills: Developing hard and soft skills in college may better prepare you for your desired career. Some examples of hard and soft skills include communication, teamwork, writing and reading, math and computer skills.

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