Setting and Achieving Goals

A goal is something that you want to accomplish or achieve at some defined point in the future. There are generally two types of goals, short-term goals and long-term goals.

Short-term goals are goals you want to achieve in the near future (i.e. in a week or two) and long-term goals are those you want to achieve down the road (i.e. by the end of the term.) Setting realistic goals and accomplishing goals is the key to achieving and maintaining academic success.

However, not all goals are appropriate. In order for your goals to be appropriate they need to be in line with what you desire to accomplish academically. Your goals must also be clear and measurable.

If your goals are not clear, or measurable, the effort you put towards achieving your goals will lack direction and focus. In preparing your academic goals follow “The Three W’s of Goals”.

The Three W’s of Goals


Write down each of your goals. The number one key to accomplishing your goals is committing your goals to writing. Writing your goals down forces you to clarify exactly what it is that you want to accomplish and will motivate you to take action steps toward achieving those goals.

Writing down each of your goals also ensures that you don’t get distracted by other opportunities and endeavors that come up. Accomplishing goals is difficult, and most worthy goals will face resistance.

Writing down your goals will help you overcome resistance and stay focused on what’s most important for accomplishing your goals. Finally, writing down your goals ensures that you know what you’re going to accomplish and when it’s to be accomplished.


If you don’t know what you want, you won’t know what you need in order to get there. Each goal you set should state exactly what you expect to accomplish.

Vague goals that lack focus, and are not measurable, are ineffective and difficult to accomplish. Think hard why your goal is important. Then, articulate exactly what your goal is.


Finally, you need to identify when you’ll accomplish each goal. Realistic goals have realistic deadlines. Goals without deadlines are not realistic-and are far less likely to be achieved. Setting a realistic deadline forces you to think about what it will take to accomplish the goal.

A realistic deadline will help you prioritize what work must be done in order to achieve your goal. Finally, setting a realistic deadline for your goal will push you to stay on pace so that your goal comes to fruition.

An example of an appropriate goal might be the following:

I will brainstorm a list of potential science projects (what you will do) for the science fair by December 3 (when you will accomplish the goal).

Characteristics of good goals include the following:

  • Achievable. Setting goals that are so lofty that there is only a slight chance you’ll be able to achieve them is not part of effective goal setting. Make sure the goals you set push you to excel but are well within your skill set and ability to accomplish.
  • Realistic. Setting a goal to get straight A’s when you’re approaching the end of the semester and failing most of your classes may not be realistic. A realistic goal may be to pass all your classes and get a few A’s and B’s.
  • Measurable. Good goals are measurable. A goal to improve your performance in Math is an example of an ineffective goal. Setting a goal to get an A on your next Math exam in order to move your grade from 75% to 83% is a measurable goal that is achievable and realistic.
  • Flexible. Don’t set such rigid goals that you can’t modify your goal if circumstances change. Also, set goals that allow you to achieve some success even if you don’t achieve your entire goal.

Ultimately, you want to set goals that will provide you direction and motivation to succeed academically.

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