WES Advisor Blog

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A Guide to Setting SMART Goals

Thursday | November 10, 2016 | by Kaitlin Ramby

A student writing down goals

Setting goals for yourself as a student can enable you to achieve greater success than you would without setting goals. Goals can help you know what to prioritize, give you more certainty in your abilities, and help you know where to improve. Goals get you further in life by providing a vision for the long term and motivation for the short term. The goals you set for yourself should be SMART: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound. We’re going to break down what each of these means for setting your own goals and achieving academic and personal success as an international student. Read on to discover how to set SMART goals.

Specific: If you want to achieve the goals you set for yourself, you need to break them down into smaller, more detailed goals. For example, if you have a goal of graduating with a GPA of 3.8, then what do you need to earn in each of your courses to achieve that goal? Then, what grade will you need for each exam, project, assignment, and paper that contributes to each course grade? Asking these questions and breaking your goals down into the smallest pieces will make your big goals more achievable and give you clear direction on how to accomplish them.

Measurable: You should be able to track yourself in accordance with your goals. That way, you know if you are meeting expectations you set for yourself. Establish milestones throughout your semester or academic year so you can check how much closer you are to your goal, and reassess if something has not gone according to plan. Continually measure your progress so you always know what to focus on.

Action-oriented: When you set goals, you need to know what actions to take to achieve them. For example, if you have two exams and one paper in the same week, then how much time should you set aside to study, research at the library, speak with your professors, and so on? Once you’ve laid out your goals and broken them down, determine what actionable steps are required to accomplish them.

Realistic: The goals you set for yourself should be challenging and motivate you to do better than you did before. At the same time, make sure that the goals you set are realistic. Breaking down your goals into small, daily tasks will give you a better idea of whether or not they are attainable. If you feel like you are reaching a little too far with your goal, it may be a good idea to change it or set a different goal.

Time-bound: You should know when you expect to achieve the goals you set for yourself. When you set milestones and action items, make a schedule and set deadlines so you are continuously working toward achieving your goal. This will also keep you from getting distracted with other daily tasks that pop up.

Although setting goals takes discipline and dedication, the reward that you get out of it makes your hard work worth it. By setting goals, you are challenging yourself and doing things you might not have even known you were capable of doing. If you want to discover more about SMART goals and download worksheets for creating your goals you can check out the Smartsheet Blog.

Good luck!

Kaitlin Ramby

Kaitlin Ramby is the former Digital Content Producer and a Contributing Writer for World Education Services.