An educational goal is an objective a person hopes to meet regarding their education. Every student, no matter the grade level, should establish a set of educational goals.
This is especially important for university students because they are fast approaching the point of entering the job market and embarking on a career; hopefully a long and successful career.
The timeline for accomplishing educational goals can be set for an upcoming course, the academic year, or upon graduation.
How to Set Educational Goals
Setting each educational goal should involve writing a statement that identifies the specific skills or area of knowledge a person would like to acquire.
It is important that these statements be very specific. For example, saying that you want to get an “A” in a course is too broad. More detail regarding how to write effective educational goals will be described further below.
Educational goals can also include defining strategies for achieving those objectives. Implementing the right study habits will help ensure those goals are met.
Having a goal isn’t going to help if a person doesn’t know the right steps to accomplish that goal.
Educational Goals Examples
- “…to learn at least 5 techniques for detecting a firewall breach on a company server in my computer programming course.”
- “…to be able to add at least 7 motion dynamics to a graph covered in my data visualization course…. from memory, with no help.”
- “…to study for one hour per day at university. I will be at a desk in the library at 9am each day to do this.”
- “…to find a good tutor to help me through my upcoming course in multiple regression analysis.”
- “…to memorize the APA or Chicago Manual of Style citation formats for: journal articles, books, edited chapters, and websites.”
- “…to learn 5 classroom management techniques for transitions taught in my early childhood education course.”
- “…being able to conduct at least 4 kinds of descriptive statistics for survey data without looking at the manual or asking for help.”
- “…to schedule at least 2 meetings this term with my academic advisor to discuss my career objectives after graduation.”
- “…to get involved in at least one research project conducted by one of my professors, starting at the beginning of the upcoming academic year.”
- “…I will set my mind on presenting at least one research paper at an undergraduate academic conference within the next year.”
- “…I aim to gather detailed admissions requirements for my top 3 and middle 3 graduate programs by the end of this term.”
- “…to be able to speak Spanish at a conversational level within six months by taking daily group lessons online.”
- “…I will master the art of public speaking by completing a public speaking course. I think I could do this by the end of the year.”
- “…I will learn how to code in Python and build a fully functional website by the end of the semester.”
- “…I will improve my critical thinking skills by using a critical thinking puzzles app for ten minutes per day at exactly 8pm each day.”
- “…to complete a course on financial management to improve my knowledge of personal finance and investments with the goal of getting a promotion in my firm.”
- “…I should be able to develop my leadership skills by attending leadership workshops and seminars.
- “…to improve my writing skills by checking my drafts with my teacher 2 weeks before each essay is due.”
- “…I will get into a writing habit by writing at least 500 words every day for a month.”
- “…I will learn how to play the guitar and be able to perform at least five songs by the end of the year. The first song will be Hey Jude by The Beatles.”
- “…to be able to solve complex mathematical equations by attending math tutoring sessions twice a week at my university library.”
- “…to improve my time management skills by creating and sticking to a schedule for the next six months.”
- “…I will learn how to use Adobe Photoshop and create professional-quality designs by the end of the semester. My portfolio presentation will get at least a B.”
- “…to improve my memory and focus by practicing mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes every day, directly after breakfast, for a month.”
- “…I will improve my public speaking skills by joining a local Toastmasters club and attending Tuesday meetings weekly for 3 months.”
See Also: 101 Goals for the School Year
Educational Goals for Studying
- “…to read and comprehend a chapter of a challenging book every day to improve my reading skills.”
- “…to memorize 50 new vocabulary words each week to expand my knowledge of the English language.”
- “…to attend every lecture and take detailed notes to improve my understanding of the course material.”
- “…to practice a new math problem every day to improve my problem-solving skills.
- “…to participate in a study group to gain different perspectives and insights on the course material.”
- “…to complete all of the assigned readings and assignments on time to improve my time management skills.”
- “…to attend office hours and ask questions to gain a better understanding of the course material.”
- “…to review my notes and study materials for at least an hour every day to improve my retention of information.”
- “…to actively participate in class discussions and ask questions to improve my critical thinking skills.”
- “…to create a study schedule and stick to it to improve my discipline and focus.”
Educational Goals for High School Students
- “…to complete my college application by the end of the week. I will work on one section per day and get started first thing when I get back from school each day.”
- “…to achieve a high score on the SAT/ACT exams so I can be accepted into my desired college. To achieve this goal, I will study for 45 minutes every afternoon.”
- “…to write the required research paper two weeks before it’s due so I can have time to edit and improve it before submission.”
- “…to participate in a summer internship program. To get started on this goal, I will send five emails to five separate companies I want to intern for.” (See more internship goals in this list.)
- “…to learn how to use Microsoft Excel and create a financial model for a real-life business. To achieve this, I will watch one YouTube video on Excel strategies per day.”
- “…to learn how to write a resume and cover letter to prepare for job applications. To get started on this goal, I will find a resume template online and start filling it out this afternoon.”
- “…to learn a new language to be able to communicate with people from different cultures. To do this, I will enrol in an after-school language learning program this week.”
- “…to attend five college fairs by the end of the month and meet with admissions representatives from each college.”
- “…to participate in March’s debate competition to improve my public speaking skills.”
- “…to attend my local career fair next month and learn about different career paths in my field of interest. My sign of success will be that I have a shortlist of 5 preferred careers.”
Educational Goals for Graduate Students
- “…to complete my dissertation by the end of the academic year to fulfill the requirements for my degree.”
- “…to publish an academic article in a peer-reviewed journal to contribute to the scholarly discourse in my field.”
- “…to attend at least three academic conferences this year to network with other professionals in my field.”
- “…to develop and present a research proposal to my department for funding to support my research.”
- “…to improve my data analysis skills through advanced statistical courses to enhance the quality of my research.”
Tips for Attaining Your Educational Goals
1. Develop Good Habits
Setting goals is great and can go a long way to help you keep focused on your objectives. But, if you don’t have good study habits a lot of those goals will be difficult to reach.
With that said, take a look at the good habits below that will make you a more efficient and effective student.
- Learn how to take better notes. This is a valuable skill to master. A lot of students try to write or type nearly everything their professor says during class. This prevents you from engaging in deep cognitive processing of the information because you are too focused on writing/typing. Most of the time you should only be writing 2- or 3-word phrases.
- Attend every class. Missing class is a bad habit to get into. Many professors will supplement textbook material with other sources during lecture. If you’re not there, you will miss it completely.
- Show up early to class. Getting to class 10 minutes early will give you time to review notes from previous classes, which is a nice tune-up for your memory network. Being early also helps you get in the right mindset.
- Sit in the front. This will make you more attentive during the entire class and you will be more likely to participate in discussions or respond to the professor’s questions. It will also help your professor remember you, which will be important if you need a letter of recommendation later.
- Study daily. Distributed studying is much more efficient and effective than cramming. It will be easier to retain information, be better organized in your knowledge base, and allow you to identify gaps in your understanding that you can ask your professor about. And, you won’t have to deal with all that anxiety of studying 5 chapters the night before the mid-term.
- Study in the library. Libraires are quiet and very conducive to deep cognitive processing. Studying in the dorm is ill-advised. Dorms are noisy and friends will interrupt with temptations you don’t need. Plus, there are much more interesting people in the library. They are more serious about school and could be a better influence in your life.
Personal Note from Dave: I didn’t learn these strategies until the end of year 2 of undergraduate study. First two years GPA=2.4; Final two years GPA=3.98 (stupid French class).
How To Set Your Educational Goals (The SMART Format)
SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The SMART format is a great tool for setting an educational goal that can actually be met.
Here is a more detailed description:
The goal should be clear, concise, and specific. The biggest mistake most students make when setting their goals is that the goals are too vague. If your goal has numbers in it, then it is a good sign.
- I will improve my vocabulary.
- I will learn at least 10 new words every week.
See More: Examples of Specific Goals
The goal should be written in a way that it can be measured. It should include some identifiable markers of success; again, numbers in your statement are a good sign that the achievement is quantifiable.
- I will improve my data visualization skills.
- I will be able to apply 3 interactive elements to a graph.
See More: Examples of Measurable Goals
A goal should be challenging, but not so difficult that success is unlikely. When we are young, we like to dream big. Nothing wrong with that. But don’t set yourself up for failure. Remember that big goals are usually achieved incrementally.
- I will get involved in 3 research projects this year.
- I will get involved in 1 research project this year.
Make sure that you set goals that are directly connected to your major or career aspirations. Don’t let yourself get distracted by pursuing a goal that is not directly related your long-term plan. There can be many side streets on the path to success, but it is better to stay on course.
- I will go swimming every day.
- I will study at least twice a day for 45 minutes each time.
Each goal should specify a timeframe for accomplishment. Setting a very specific date for when the goal should be met is vital, especially if you have a tendency to procrastinate.
- I will apply to 3 graduate programs.
- I will apply to 3 graduate programs by the end of this term.
Examples of SMART Educational Goals
1. Getting Research Experience
“I will get involved in one of my professor’s research projects beginning this academic term.”
Here is an example of setting an ambitious educational goal. A lot of undergraduate students will want to move forward after graduation and pursue a master’s or doctorate. Most of those programs will be looking for students with research experience.
Remember: Research takes a long time. Planning, designing, collecting data, analyzing data and writing the report can take at least 1 year, perhaps more. So, if you plan to apply for graduate schools anywhere from November – February of your senior year, it means you should start getting involved in research at the very beginning of your junior year (at the latest).
2. Getting Relevant Work Experience
“I will apply for 3 internships every month that are directly related to my career/graduate degree until I get one.”
Whether your goal is to start your career right after bachelor’s study or continue on to grad school, having some relevant work experience will be a big plus on your resume. The key word here is “relevant.”
Having an internship related to your future career or area of graduate study is a fantastic idea. It will give you first-hand knowledge of what the job is really like. Be forewarned, that can turn out to be a real eye-opening experience. What we imagine a job to be like and what it actually entails on a daily basis can be very different.
Having some relevant work experience looks very good on your resume. It will help you stand out from the scores of other applicants. In addition, it can also lead to another letter of recommendation that will add diversity to the ones that come from your professors.
Everyone needs to set goals for themselves. This will help you stay on track and maintain focus.
Although most of us think we know how to set goals, most of the time we are too vague and don’t include a timeline. Sometimes we set goals that are unrealistic and not directly relevant to our long-term objectives.
This is why the SMART format is recommended. It is a framework that will help you identify specific goals, set a timeline, and provide a way to assess if you have met that goal or not.
Each student should use the SMART system for each course they take. Setting goals for an entire academic year and your 3-5-year life plan is highly recommended.
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Lawlor, K. B., & Hornyak, M. J. (2012). SMART goals: How the application of SMART goals can contribute to achievement of student learning outcomes. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, 39, 259-267.
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Reeves, M., & Fuller, J. (2018). When SMART goals are not so smart. MIT Sloan Management Review, 59(4), 1-5.
Rubin, R. S. (2002). Will the real SMART goals please stand up. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 39(4), 26-27.