Your college years are all about expanding your horizon, using education to explore the topics and fields that interest you, as well as evolving into an adult. Part of that journey is related to setting the right goals. Goal-setting in college helps you enjoy short-term success as well as learn how to determine and accomplish the right goals in your post-grad life—a useful skill to have!
Sound a bit daunting? Don’t worry! We’re not trying to make you feel like you’re wasting your college career if you’re not on your goal-setting game. Like any new skill, it’s best to start small, practice and refine your process along the way. Let’s break down some examples of SMART goals for college students (including what SMART means).
Work SMART-er, Not Harder
The SMART framework can help you on your goal-setting journey and ensure your objectives are truly achievable. SMART stands for:
- Specific: The more detail-oriented your target, the better your chances for realizing once you’ve hit it.
- Measurable: A way to quantify success, i.e., earn $500/month with my part-time job or raise my GPA to 3.5.
- Attainable: Can you actually accomplish that goal, given your circumstances? Whether it’s mathematically or theoretically, make sure you can do what you set out to do. In other words, avoid the moonshot goals.
- Realistic: While it may seem similar to attainable, think of realistic as a goal that makes sense within your overall life path. You want your goal to be relevant to your current classes, jobs, direction or hobbies.
- Timely: Set a timeline! Deadlines will get your ensure you take action and don’t procrastinate.
Consider some of the following examples of SMART Goals for college students.
1. Dedicate One Hour Per Week to Career Development
Setting aside time to focus on your career is invaluable. The time allotment might increase depending on your year (meaning seniors might spend two to three hours per week leading up to graduation); however, it’s beneficial no matter what. Start by researching potential careers that align with your major, going to a professor’s office hour, or making an appointment with the career center.
While one hour per week is a small commitment, these consistent steps will help you guide your decision making and gain valuable insights for landing a post-grad job.
2. Set a Budget
Whether you’re spending your money or your parents’, you can—and should—start budgeting ASAP. Trust us, paying adult bills on an entry-level salary hits different. The good news is that you can develop budgeting skills in college to set a strong financial foundation. Try these examples of SMART budgeting goals for college students:
- Set a weekend spending limit, i.e., only spend $200 on going out to eat or bars Friday-Sunday. Stick with it, even on game day weekends!
- Cap your monthly online shopping. Don’t forget to include all websites you frequent, Amazon Prime; we’re looking at you!
3. Find an Internship
Internships can help you test out different career paths, job duties and positions, as well as build your resume. While you might opt for the paid alternative of part-time jobs, don’t sleep on unpaid internships, these often provide the best experience.
Your SMART goal could be to find an internship for the next semester or even the summer. Some coveted internship spots have a lengthy application process.
4. Limit Your Unnecessary Screen Time
This is one of the easiest examples of SMART goals for college students. We all understand the drawbacks of too much phone or social media time. (If you don’t, read this article). It’s also incredibly measurable; use the screen time function on your phone to view reports that detail exactly how much time you’re on your phone (and on which apps).
For example, if your goal is to spend three hours less on social media per week, you can check out graphs that compare your average time to confirm you’ve hit the mark.
What’s more, this will give you valuable extra space in your daily schedule to achieve some of your other goals. We often don’t realize how much time we waste on the infinite-scroll rabbit hole.
5. Read Non-School-Related Books
Reading for pleasure is incredibly beneficial, it reduces stress, improves your memory and increases empathy. However, most college students might feel overloaded on reading with all their classwork and studying. That’s understandable, but if you tried Goal #4, you could replace some of your social media or screen time with non-school reading time.
Fiction books can give your mind a break from studies and worries. Biographies can inspire you on your collegiate journey. Or even try self-development books to gain a better perspective on your inner workings. Committing to one non-course-related book per month could even give you the opportunity to start a book club with your friends or apartment-mates.
Check out our recommended six books for college students!
6. Create (and Keep) a Self-Care Routine
College flies by in a blink of an eye. With classes, clubs, extracurriculars, social life, internships, and more, we often forget to take time for ourselves. Creating a self-care routine is one of our favorite examples of SMART goals for college students because it accomplishes many things:
- Self-care is rest. Too often, we run ourselves ragged and forget to take a break. This is detrimental to our physical and mental health. Dedicating time for self-care allows your body and mind to rejuvenate.
- Gives you time to reflect. Taking a Sunday afternoon to journal, meditate or just *be* allows you to hop off the merry-go-round for a minute and remember the crazy and memorable times that are your college years.
- Banish the Sunday scaries. We’ve all been there; you didn’t accomplish enough over the weekend. As Monday looms, the pit in your stomach grows. Self-care routines ensure you have time in your schedule to relax and tackle that unneeded stress and anxiety.
Try these Self-Care Sunday tips to create your routine. Remember, to be measurable and timely, you need to keep at it and don’t neglect your own needs as the semester gets busier.
Become a Well-Rounded Adult With SMART Goals
We know, adulting is hard. But setting SMART goals can help you get there one itty-bitty step at a time. And in the meantime, you’ll feel like a boss by checking goals off your list. Use the SMART framework and the above inspiration to create your goals for this year!
To set better habits that help you achieve your goals, check out the book Atomic Habits by James Clear — it was our EPOCH book club book of the month and our residents loved it!