Setting Goals in College

October 23, 2019 · 6 minute read

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Setting Goals in College

Ready to set smart goals as a college student? You may be Type A in planning out what you want to achieve this year, or you may be the type to just hope to make it to class on time. Between studying, attending the latest game, or finding ways to make money in college, goals can be challenging to create.

Whether you are just starting fresh or redefining your semester, setting goals in college could help you balance academics, finances, and fun. And let’s face it: college students today are juggling a lot. Tuition and fees for a bachelor’s degree average out to $8,600 for the 2018–2019 school year, according to the College Board . In order to make ends meet, as of 2017, 43% of full-time undergraduate students are employed.

When you get down to it, you may just really be interested in learning how to ride a unicycle to class (we’d be super impressed). While there are endless opportunities to better yourself in college, you might not know where to start. Take a look at some goal ideas below and you might discover that goal-setting could improve your semester.

Good Goals to Complete in College

After the craziness of finding the best college fit, you might be anxious to make the most of your college days. Maybe signing up for 50-plus campus organizations isn’t a good idea, but there are a few goals that might set you up for success. Goal-setting students can break down objectives into different categories.

Academic Goals to Achieve

Earning a good GPA. At the top of most students’ minds is getting good grades. There are plenty of positives to achieving a high GPA, including more potential for scholarships or landing on the dean’s list. It might be a great resume-builder, too. You could aim for a certain GPA, or work on improving your number from last semester.

Increasing professor facetime. Along with earning good grades, actually making an effort to get to know your professors could go a long way. Using your instructors’ office hours to clarify confusing topics instructors might help you understand class concepts better. And who knows, their references might lead yous to a really cool internship down the road.

Personal Goals to Set in College

Signing up for extracurricular activities. College is a great time to discover new interests. Curious to learn Japanese? There might be a club for that. Want to blow off some steam on a basketball court? There could be an intramurals team for that. You could check with your college’s campus life department to see what’s available.

Exploring a new city. You might want to eat pasta every night in Italy or dive the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. Studying abroad in college can be more than a chance to get out of the country. It could give you the opportunity to expand your cultural views and learn more about people across the world.

Financial Goals to Set in College

Paying for college. Finding ways to make college more affordable doesn’t have to be a daunting goal. Whether you’re considering scholarships or grants, you could find ways to help reduce the amount you owe after graduation. You could even set up a budget to make sure you’re meeting all your money goals.

Finding an internship. The whole point of college is working to get a degree so you can set yourself up for success in your chosen field. One great way to get ahead could be to land an internship related to your major.

Should You Set More Than One Goal in College?

There are plenty of goals to select from. What happens when you want to do it all? You could select your top three goals for the semester and prioritize them.

The cool thing about college is there are so many things to explore. The overwhelming part of college is there are so many things to explore. Double-edged sword, anyone?

You could reevaluate your top goals once final exams are done. If you are setting more than one goal, you might want to try writing them down. A study from Dominican University showed that if you write out your goals, you are more likely to accomplish them.

Once you have written out your goals, you could set it aside and revisit the list the next day to see if it still feels right. The next step might be to take your goals and make them SMART.

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What Is a SMART Goal?

SMART is an acronym that breaks down your goal into five categories:


The SMART goal method can be implemented for a variety of goals. Each goal typically follows the same method. Specific refers to how clear your goal is stated. It shouldn’t be vague or abstract. Measurable refers to knowing how you can achieve your goal.

The goal should also be attainable. Can you actually achieve the goal? Relevant refers to why you want to accomplish the goal, and time-bound helps you define a due date for your goals.

SMART Goal Example for Students

If you really want to get down to business on your goals in college, you could use the SMART criteria to start building them out. For example, what if you’re a commuter student who wants to be more involved on campus? The goal of “being more involved” by itself would not fit the SMART criteria—it’s too vague.

To be more specific, you could reword your goal by stating, “I want to join two campus organizations this semester and be on the leadership team for one of them.” In this way, you have specifically called out your goal.

It’s also measurable because the goal requires joining two organizations and serving on the leadership team for one. The goal is attainable because you have access to campus organizations. And it’s relevant to your college experience.

Then you could break down your SMART goal into mini-milestones. Going along with this example, you might make a goal to check out the activities fair during school. You could also research campus organizations online and narrow your list down to the two you want to become involved with the most.

Another SMART goal example for students could be paying for college. Breaking it down using the SMART criteria, for example, could look something like this:

Specific: I need to come up with $10,000 for college tuition by next year.
Measurable: I can measure this by figuring out how much money I have and how much I need.
Attainable: I can achieve this because there are a variety of resources I can use to help me pay for college.
Relevant: The total amount needed is the same cost as one year of tuition at my school. This will help me continue going to school to get my degree.
Time-bound: This needs to be completed in 12 months so I can deliver the funds to the financial aid office.

SoFi and Student Loans

If you have a goal to pay for college tuition, and you’ve exhausted your federal aid and other financing options, you could consider a private student loan with SoFi. SoFi offers low-rate, no-fee in-school loans that could help you finance college. Now that’s smart.

Get started with a SoFi private student loan application.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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