Setting Goals as a College Student

Goal Target Success Aspiration Aim Inspiration Concept
Goal Target Success Aspiration Aim Inspiration Concept

Goal setting is a great skill to learn, and if you've never done it before, college is a great time to start. You have built-in units of time in terms of semesters and rising through a four-year program, as well as many concrete measures of success. Working within these parameters can help you shift to goals later where you have to create more scaffolding. The tips below can get you started.


The first step to getting started with goal setting is to brainstorm. You've probably done a similar exercise at some point in school before in which you begin by writing down all the ideas that come to you without judging. When it comes to setting goals, the last thing you want to do is shut down some great ambition before you even have
the chance to examine how you might achieve it. Instead, make a note of the things that you dream of doing.

Narrowing it Down

The only problem with this brainstorming is that it can be a little overwhelming. Don't worry; you don't need to have your whole life mapped out at this stage. Instead, you need to pick out between one and three short or medium-term goals to work toward for now. If all of the ideas you wrote down are big ones, think about the smaller goals you need to reach to get to them. For example, maybe you want to be an astronaut. But, first, you need the right kind of degree, and before that, you need to do well in the relevant classes. So, your first goal could be to achieve a certain grade point average in your first semester. Notice that this is a concrete goal with a specific time frame and a straightforward measure of success or failure.

Anticipate Setbacks

Setting goals doesn't mean you'll automatically succeed. While you should strive to achieve what you set out to do, you should also be kind to yourself when you fall short. Sometimes, things can happen that are outside of your control that can substantially impact your progress. When this happens, you may need to set aside your main aim for the moment and look for resources to shore you up in the present.

For example, housing insecurity in college students can be a severe problem. Maybe you didn't receive the financial aid or scholarship you expected, and you're struggling to find stable housing. For this and other issues, look to campus resources for help, including counseling and perhaps telehealth options, which are convenient and increasingly available to students so they can access help 24/7. You can also look over a guide on students and housing insecurity. Know that you can weather the setback and get your focus back soon.

Track and Reward

Figure out a way to record your progress and give yourself rewards along the way. This will help you battle procrastination which is typical for many college students. For example, if your goal is to run a half marathon by the end of the school year, find an app to track your runs. Of course, meeting your goal is excellent, but there's nothing wrong with sweetening the deal by giving yourself a nice reward as well.

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