Setting Semester Goals
It’s a good idea to think about your semester goals whether you’re about to start your first semester or are preparing for your senior year. You may be about to take a difficult class or just barely made it through the last set of courses. Alternatively, you may have done well last semester, but there were a few hiccups along the way that you want to avoid in the future. Regardless, setting goals is a great way to track your progress, succeed in your educational journey, and build your morale.
Indeed, successful and proactive students set semester goals before their first day of class and update them regularly. They think about what they need to work on, take steps to improve and ensure that they reward themselves for their progress. As their needs and the semester evolves, they change their goals to something more realistic and attainable.
On the other hand, students with improperly set goals see poorer performance and lower grades. The impossible-to-reach goalposts demoralize them and make them feel like failures. They feel discouraged and think that they’re the problem. In reality, their unrealistic goals are the problem.
The Damage of Setting Unrealistic Goals
Truly, when people can’t achieve their goals, they think the issue is internal. They weren’t good enough, so of course, they didn’t succeed. But, more often than not, they set goals that wouldn’t be realistic for most people. For example, most students do not earn straight A’s in college, but many strive for it. While it’s a good goal to have, to be successful in every course, success can’t be measured so simply. One bad test, a missing assignment, and a harsh professor can ruin that dream right out of the gate.
Ultimately, it’s important to set yourself up for success. Otherwise, you won’t notice your own progress.
How to Set Semester Goals
So, how do you set good semester goals? You should consider looking into SMART goals first. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Basically, you want to go for something obtainable and realistic. Go too broad and you can’t measure success. Go too lofty and you probably won’t find success.
Also, you need to make sure you reward yourself for your progress. Meeting goals is great, but most of us need motivation to complete them. Whether it’s your favorite snack, a new pair of pajamas, or a big event, treat yourself for your hard work. You deserve it.
Below, we’ll discuss how to set your goals, with the SMART acronym in mind.
1. Find Areas for Growth
When you’re creating semester goals, you need something to strive toward. Obviously, you want to do good in class, but that’s not specific, measurable, or achievable. For some, doing “good” is passing; for others, it’s nothing less than an ‘A+’. So, what exactly do you have trouble with?
Whether you’re a returning or new college student, you should have some idea of your weaknesses. Many people struggle with math and essay writing, two skills vital for success. Others know that they’re not the best at time management, reading, or active listening. Notably, your goals do not need to be related to your grades at all. Instead, you can work on improving yourself and the skills you’ll need to complete your degree and succeed in the workforce.
Make it SMART
Become a Better Active Listener by the Mid-Terms by Employing Active Listening Techniques in My Lectures
I will take relevant notes and write down and/or ask open-ended questions, whether during or after class. I will not look at my phone, look at irrelevant tabs on my laptop, talk to peers, or interrupt the professor during the lecture.
I can accurately summarize the lectures I attend, easily review my notes, and come up with one to three questions based on the content. I can track the times I was distracted during class by making notes and comparing them with how often I was distracted at the start of the semester versus mid-terms.
I can listen to my professors and employ active listening techniques. I can take notes and improve my focus.
Improving my active listening skills will help me understand lecture content and become a better listener.
I must improve my active listening skills before mid-terms. Evaluated weekly and at mid-terms.
Weekly, if I succeed, I will treat myself by engaging in my hobbies and painting for at least one hour during the weekend. At mid-terms, I will buy myself a new paint set.
Not every lecture needs the same amount of notes or questions. I cannot be at the top of my game every day of every week – I’m working to improve, not to perfect. I can still get my reward, even if I wasn’t at my best in every lecture.
2. Be Specific
Notably, your standard of success still isn’t meaningful unless it, itself, is specific and you have a specific plan on how to get there. Indeed, your semester goals need to be detailed, or you may set yourself up for failure. Let’s go back to earning an ‘A’ in every one of your classes. When you look at your goal, you need to be able to ask “how” and then come up with a plan for success. So, how do you earn four or more ‘A’s? By doing well on every assignment? That opens its own path as you then must ask, how do you do that?
Similarly, setting a goal to “do your best” doesn’t work as how do you measure “doing your best”? And what is “your best”? For most of us, that will change week to week, based on how we’re feeling and what’s going on in our lives. Any number of things can change what we’re capable of at any given moment. Illnesses, stress, major life events, burnout, and more can limit us to the point that the most you can give some days is getting out of bed.
So, if you can’t get specific with your goal, you should try coming at it from a different angle. Maybe your big goal consists of achieving several smaller ones, such as getting a passing grade on your most difficult class’s mid-term, doing all of the weekly readings, and so on.
Make it SMART
Earn a Passing Grade on My Mid-Term Essay by Using the Resources Available to Me
I will use the writing center, my professor, classmates, and class resources to write an essay that will earn a passing grade. I am also my own resource and can help myself succeed by creating a schedule to ensure I have time to write and research.
A passing grade is at least a 70%. I can track if I used the above resources to succeed.
I have the rubric provided by my professor, and I have resources available to help me succeed. It is more important that I put in the effort than the grade I receive.
I struggle with writing essays, and I need to improve my writing skills.
My mid-term essay is due on November 16, 2022, at 11:59 pm. I must turn it in before then.
I will take myself to my favorite sushi restaurant after I receive my grade. I will also buy myself bubble tea if I earn a ‘B’ and crab Rangoon if I earn an ‘A’.
I can ask my professor for an extension if I need more time. I am unfamiliar with essay writing and know it takes time to build these skills. If I fail, I can still reward myself for the effort I put in, as long as I put the effort in.
3. Think Achievable, Short-Term Goals
When you think of semester goals, you might think of your final grades and exams. But you’ll want to ensure that there are goalposts that you can reach before the finish line. These are often more important and useful than your own big goal, as they help you reach the end. Of course, you’ll update these goals as you go. Once you reach one goal, you set a new one. You may have the same set of goals to achieve each semester. For example, if you struggle with staying on top of your reading, you could focus on reading a certain number of pages every week.
Truly, your goals shouldn’t be as lofty or vague as “earn an ‘A’ in every class.” This planning can actually hurt your progress. Consider how you’ll feel if your only goal is to get an ‘A’ in every class, and you find yourself with a ‘B’ or even a ‘C’ in the most difficult course. Those three ‘A’s are still impressive and show success, but most would focus on the one ‘A’ that they didn’t earn.
Notably, students are more aware of what they didn’t earn than what they did. They ignore their own impressive achievements because they didn’t reach their only measurement for success.
Thus, you should consider setting short-term goals, measured weekly, bi-weekly, and/or monthly. Even a goal as simple as attending the lecture you hate is worth setting. It’ll help you develop self-discipline and show you that you can do difficult (and sometimes boring) things.
Make it SMART
Attend Dr. Brooke’s 9 am Wednesday Lecture Every Week
Be awake on time to get to class every Wednesday (and leave time to get a treat, like coffee), don’t schedule big events on Tuesday nights, and set alarms. I must do this to do everything I can to get a good grade.
Checklist; did I go to Dr. Brooke’s lecture this week?
I do not work at this time or have another class, and I am physically able to go. I find Dr. Brooke’s lectures boring, and I am the only thing stopping me from going.
If I do not attend Dr. Brooke’s 9 am lecture, I will lose participation points and knowledge I need to succeed in this class.
I must be there at 9 am, or I will miss the lecture.
Donuts the morning of every fourth consecutive lecture I attend.
If I missed a lecture due to an illness, bad weather, or a major event, it does not count against me. Missing one occasional lecture does not set me back from my reward.
4. Don’t Limit Yourself
If you notice yourself exceeding your goals every week or month, it’s time to reevaluate. You either met your standards from the beginning of the semester or set the bar too low. Truly, it’s better to set it too low than too high at the start, so you don’t demotivate yourself. However, both can limit your potential. Once you recognize the issue, you need to set tougher goals.
Instead of focusing on passing, give yourself a goal grade, such as earning a ‘B’ on your next test. Use your improving study and time management skills and put the work in to raise that grade. Similarly, upgrade attending every lecture to participating in every class. Raise your hand, ask questions, and start discussions.
Also, if you recognize you no longer want to pursue a certain goal, don’t think of it as a failure. Limiting yourself to a task that doesn’t feel useful or accomplishable can hurt your progress. Part of setting goals is recognizing your needs. Just don’t set aside every goal that takes effort.
Make it SMART
Old Goal: Attend Dr. Brooke’s 9 am Wednesday Lecture Every Week
New Semester Goal:
Participate in Dr. Brooke’s 9 am Wednesday Lecture Every Week
Ask questions and participate in lectures while engaging with the material. I will try to raise my hand every class and ask for help when I need it.
I will keep track of every time I add a substantive comment or ask a question in class. Dr. Brooke grades on participation; I should see an increase in my grade as I participate more.
Dr. Brooke encourages participation. My raising my hand will not disrupt class but will add to my participation score.
I want to make one comment or add one question every 9 am lecture each week.
Donuts and coffee every fourth consecutive week I participate in class.
In some classes, I will not have anything to say. It will be more beneficial to use my active listening skills. Also, some classes are less discussion-focused than others; raising my hand to add my thoughts could be disruptive.
Lakewood University is an accredited online school that offers a variety of degree and certificate programs. We have rolling enrollments and asynchronous courses. In other words, you don’t have to worry about missing a lecture or running late to class. If you plan on enrolling in college while working, Lakewood University offers the flexibility you need to earn your degree.
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