School can be overwhelming. You've got class after class, assignment after assignment, and it all just keeps piling up! What's worse is that you have to get through years of this...

How do you manage it all?

A student being overwhelmed by work.

Sometimes just setting manageable academic goals can make a huge difference.

Telling Short Term from Long Term

First, think about what counts as short-term and what counts as long-term.

A student thinking about their goals. Photo by Yosep Surahman on Unsplash

Short-term goals include:

  • Study this weekend

  • Finish my essay

  • Ace this test

Long-term goals include:

  • Get an A average this semester

  • Graduate with honours

  • Use my degree to get a job

If it takes more than a couple of weeks to complete, it's probably long-term.

Whether setting short-term or long-term academic goals, follow the SMART pattern to make them manageable.

S: Specific

S means the goal should be specific. A specific goal should be like hitting a bullseye.

A dart hitting a bullseye. Photo by Oliver Buchmann on Unsplash

Specific academic goals are things like:

  • Finish my essay by Friday morning

  • Complete 5 courses by the end of this semester

  • Complete 2 practice tests tonight

Goals that are NOT specific are things like:

  • Finish my essay

  • Graduate on time

  • Get ready for the test


What's a good example of a specific goal?

M: Measurable

M means you can measure the goal. There's some concrete result that you will have when you're done.

A goal that's not measurable would be a goal like:

  • Finish my essay by Friday morning

That is specific but not measurable. You want a goal that's both.

Various tools for measurement on a desk. Photo by Fleur on Unsplash

Measurable academic goals are things like:

  • Write 200 words of my essay each day until Friday

  • Take a page of notes on Chapter 3 after I've read it tonight

  • Maintain an A- average


What is an example of a measurable goal?

A & R: Achievable and Realistic

The A and the R stand for achievable and realistic, meaning a goal that you can actually do! This will be different for everyone. You know your strengths and weaknesses best, but don't bite off more than you can chew!

Setting achievable goals

The goals listed above under "Measurable" are all achievable for most people. Here are some academic goals that might NOT be achievable or realistic:

  • Get an A+ on each assignment

  • Take extra courses and finish my degree in 3 years

  • Study for 10 hours a day

This will depend on your personal situation, so do some self-reflection!

T: Timely

T stands for timely. A goal is timely if it has a time limit. It's not very useful to set great goals for finishing your lab report if you submit it late!

A tiny clock representing a focus on time. Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Keep in mind the other parts of SMART when determining a time frame. Don't be unrealistic or too broad.

Timely academic goals are things like:

  • Finish my essay by Sunday

  • Study for 2 hours tonight

  • Spend a half hour on this lab report each day this week


Can you spot the goal from the examples above that is NOT timely?

Take Action

I hope you're feeling SMARTer!

Checking off a to-do list Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

To set the right academic goals for you:


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