101 Short-term Goals for Students

short-term goals for students, explained below

Short-term goals can be defined as objectives that one aims to accomplish within a relatively brief timeframe, typically ranging from several days to a few months (Nordengren, 2019).

Everyone, and especially students, need these goals, for two reasons:

  1. They can offer an immediate motivational surge, and 
  2. They are a stepping stone to longer-term, larger successes (which should be your long-term educational goals).

Furthermore, these goals aid in time management, organization, and prioritization of tasks (Moeller, Theiler, & Wu, 2012).

When a larger goal seems daunting and overwhelming, splitting it into manageable short-term goals can provide a clearer path forward (A simple example for students: breaking down a semester-long project into weekly tasks).

So, you may even find that you are less likely to procrastinate or feel overwhelmed, ultimately leading to increased productivity and higher chances of success.

Let’s take a look at some short-term goals that you might consider for your current course of study.

Short-Term Goals for Students

Short-Term Goals for College and University

1. Learn New Study Skills: Something just about any student can do is to set a goal to learn new methods of studying, and to adopt new and more efficient study routines. This goal can help you to achieve continuous self-evaluation and self-improvement (Nordengren, 2021). An updated study approach can lead to better understanding and retention of information, and can really revolutionize your approach to school or university.

2. Improve Class Attendance: Many university students see their attendance fade over time. So, this goal can help you to revamp your efforts to attend class and, therefore, take in more information and tops from your teacher (who often, during class, drops gems that’ll help you in exams). Regular class attendance can improve comprehension, as teaching insights often build upon textual information you find on lecture slides and handouts. Consistent attendance also reduces the stress of studying alone (Asafova & Vashetina, 2022).

3. Learn to Read and Comprehend Research Papers: For college students, understanding academic papers can enhance their insight into a subject beyond regular textbooks (Wilson & Dobson, 2008). By doing so, a student is setting a path towards advanced learning and critical evaluation of research, a handy skill in many professions. And good news – I have a guide here on how to get started reading academic paper.

4. Actively Participate in Group Work: This goal involves taking an active role in group assignments and projects, and is a good one if you’ve in the past taken a back seat during group projects and not been a team player. Active participation ensures that learning from peers enhances personal understanding. It also enables students to develop valuable teamwork skills (Nordengren, 2019).

5. Begin a Revision Schedule before Exams: If you’ve got exams coming up (even in 2 months time!), it’s time to start a revision schedule – this is your short-term goal to get through the current set of exams. Early revision promotes better retention of information (Friedman & Mandel, 2009). A student will have ample time for profound understanding and, consequently, improved performance.

6. Set a Target Grade for an Upcoming Test: Select a specific test that’s coming up, and set a goal of a grade that’s one notch above the last grade you got. This can be a stepping stone toward a long-term goal of yours, such as increasing your GPA to a certain point by the end of next year.

7. Attend Open Office Hours: This goal involves making regular efforts to interact with teachers outside class hours. In my opinion, this is the number 1 way you can ensure you get better grades. Take your drafts to open office hours and ask questions – it’s the best way to know what your teacher wants of the finished product!

8. Actually Use Feedback as Feedforward: Students tend to get feedback off their teacher, read it, get a bit grumpy, then forget about the feedback. One short-term goal you could set is to find ways to use that feedback to improve for next time. I recommend sitting down and writing-down 3 key takeaways, then as you study for your next exam, implement these takeaways to try to improve your grades.

9. Develop Effective Note-taking Skills: You could aim to improve the efficiency and usefulness of your note-taking. Excellent note-making is beneficial for reinforcing learned material. It aids recall and understanding, especially during revision. I personally use the Zettelkasten method, which uses cognitive science to perfect your study technique.

10. Develop a Habit of Reflection: This goal is reflected in the habit of daily or weekly reflection on what has been learned. Reflective practices often yield a deeper understanding of the learning material (Krumrei-Mancuso et al., 2013). They also assist students in recognizing areas they may need to revise or learn further.

11. Finish Assignments in Advance: The best way to decrease stress is to target completing assignments well before their due date. This helps to avoid last-minute rushes, decreases stress (Nordengren, 2021), and means you never have to skip a social outing again! This also contributes positively to time management skills.

12. Regular Physical Exercise: While this might not appear directly related to studying, it certainly affects your studying, mood, and grades. I recommend setting a short-term goal for regular physical activity, such as going for a 15 minute run each day for the next 5 days. This might even turn into a long-term habit. Physical fitness can boost brain function and concentration. It can directly impact academic performance positively (Hidayat et al., 2022).

13. Efficient Time Management: The goal involves setting up a planned schedule, accounting for studies, rest, and other activities (Friedman & Mandel, 2009). Effective time management can reduce stress and improve productivity. Balancing different aspects of life often contributes to better academic performance.

14. Improvement of Writing Skills: Students may aim to improve their writing abilities for more effective communication (Marzano, 2010). Strong written communication can improve the quality of assignments and exam answers. It also plays a significant role in future career opportunities.

Select More Goals for Improving your Communication Skills from This List

15. Enhance Public Speaking/ Presentation Skills: This goal focuses on improving students’ abilities to effectively communicate their ideas verbally (Wilson & Dobson, 2008). Enhanced public speaking skills can boost a student’s confidence and is a key skill needed in many professional settings. Practice and feedback can help in making notable improvements.

Read Also: The Qualities of a Good College Student

Short-Term Goals for High School Students

1. Improve Your Grade in the next Exam (set a target grade): You could aim to enhance your grades in a particular subject that poses challenges. This goal could encourage you to find new strategies for studying and comprehension, improving your overall academic performance (Friedman & Mandel, 2009). As a result, you may feel more academically confident and open more opportunities for your further education.

2. Engage Actively in Class: Consider setting a goal to boost your participation during class time. Making this effort could lead to a deeper understanding of lessons and improved confidence in sharing your insights (Asafova & Vashetina, 2022). Moreover, teachers appreciate active participation, reflecting positively on your overall performance and relationship.

3. Develop Superior Note-taking Skills: You could strive to enhance your note-taking methods. By pursuing this goal, not only could you boost your ability to capture vital information efficiently but also render your revision sessions more productive (Nordengren, 2021). Remember, effective studying starts with well-organized, informative notes.

4. Adopt a New Extracurricular Activity: You might consider joining one or more extracurricular activities or clubs. Participating could help develop diverse skills, make new friends, and push you beyond your academic comfort zone (Marzano, 2010). It also provides you a broader perspective and richer high school experience.

5. Volunteer Your Time: Engage in community service or pursue volunteer opportunities around your area. Volunteering nurtures a sense of accountability and empathy and can enrich your high school experiences (Shi, 2018). Such experiences are also a valuable addition to your college applications.

6. Enhance Time Management: Consider setting a goal to manage your time more effectively. Better time management could balance your academic, personal, and extracurricular commitments (Friedman & Mandel, 2009). A well-organized schedule can help reduce stress and carve out time for your relaxation and hobbies.

7. Create a Study Group: You might initiate a study group with your classmates. Collaborative learning and exchange of ideas can enrich your understanding and make studying more enjoyable (Nordengren, 2021). Sharing and learning from each other could yield productive study sessions and better outcomes for everyone involved.

8. Read a Non-curriculum Book Each Month: Perhaps, you could aim to read a non-curriculum book every month. Reading widely can broaden your knowledge, enhance your vocabulary, and further develop your reading skills (Marzano, 2010). This practice could also cultivate intellectual curiosity, an invaluable trait for lifelong learning.

9. Improve Writing Skills: You may want to aim at enhancing your writing abilities. Effective writing skills can significantly elevate the quality of your assignments and help you in expressing your ideas clearly (Gurley et al., 2015). Besides, honing your writing skills now will help in college and your future career.

10. Reduce Procrastination: Consider setting a goal to delay tasks less. Procrastination can often lead to last-minute stress and hurried, subpar work (Nordengren, 2019). By consciously working to reduce procrastination, you can manage your tasks more effectively and produce higher-quality work. I recommend the pomodoro technique.

Complete List of Short-Term Goals

  • Learn New Study Skills
  • Improve Class Attendance
  • Learn to Read and Comprehend Research Papers
  • Actively Participate in Group Work
  • Begin a Revision Schedule before Exams
  • Set a Target Grade for an Upcoming Test
  • Attend Open Office Hours
  • Actually Use Feedback as Feedforward
  • Develop Effective Note-taking Skills
  • Develop a Habit of Reflection
  • Finish Assignments in Advance
  • Regular Physical Exercise
  • Efficient Time Management
  • Improvement of Writing Skills
  • Enhance Public Speaking/ Presentation Skills
  • Master a New Language
  • Develop and Maintain a Study Schedule
  • Improve Academic Grades
  • Start a Lecture Review Routine
  • Participate in Community Service
  • Aim for Perfect Attendance
  • Develop Leadership Skills
  • Achieve a Reading Score Threshold
  • Apply for Scholarships
  • Acquire a New Skill
  • Regularly Visit the School’s Writing Center
  • Develop Creative Thinking Skills
  • Learn Basic Computer Programs
  • Master the Art of Essay Writing
  • Develop Networking Skills
  • Volunteer for School Events
  • Manage Stress Effectively
  • Develop a Morning Routine
  • Improve Physical Health
  • Enroll in an Extra Curricular Activity
  • Be Active in Class
  • Improve Time Management
  • Enhance Problem-Solving Skills
  • Incorporate Healthy Eating Habits
  • Learn Conflict Resolution Skills
  • Improve Typing Speed
  • Develop a Consistent Sleep Schedule
  • Complete Course Reading Lists
  • Improve Memory Retention Skills
  • Develop Critical Reading Skills
  • Learn How to Meditate to Relieve Stress
  • Regularly Visit the Careers Office
  • Gain Understanding in a Complex Theory
  • Improve Interpersonal Skills
  • Maintain a Positive Attitude
  • Get an Internship (and set yourself some internship goals)
  • Learn to Play a Musical Instrument
  • Improve multitasking abilities
  • Join a Study Group
  • Develop Self-Discipline
  • Learn to Code
  • Develop Emotional Intelligence
  • Save a Specific Amount of Money
  • Develop Public Speaking Skills
  • Pass Certification Exams
  • Prepare for Graduate School Admissions
  • Improve Study-Life Balance
  • Become a Class Representative
  • Pass a Difficult Course
  • Start a Business
  • Achieve a Performance Goal in Sports
  • Organize a Study Group
  • Learn Effective Revision Strategies
  • Perform Better in Group Projects
  • Attend All Tutoring Sessions
  • Maintain a Planner
  • Eliminate a Bad Habit
  • Learn Advanced Writing Techniques
  • Improve Listening Skills
  • Develop a Study Plan
  • Accomplish a Fitness Goal
  • Get a Part-Time Job
  • Develop an Effective Note-Taking System
  • Stay Within a Weekly Budget
  • Improve GPA
  • Cultivate Research Skills
  • Enhance Resume
  • Read a Difficult Book
  • Practice Regular Self-Care
  • Appreciate and Recognize Personal Growth
  • Learn and Apply a Problem Solving Algorithm
  • Improve Test-Taking Strategies
  • Reduce Procrastination
  • Help a Classmate with Studies
  • Improve Presentation Skills
  • Set Up Regular Meetings with an Advisor
  • Learn to Ask for Help
  • Learn and Practice Mindfulness
  • Develop a Career Path
  • Attend Skill-Enhancing Workshops
  • Improve Visibility on Social Media
  • Improve Self-esteem
  • Learn How to Relax More
  • Develop Negotiating Skills
  • Learn How to Use a New Software Program
  • Create and Maintain a Professional Network

Improve your Short-Term Goals with the SMART Framework


I intentionally left the above list of short-term goals vague, because you need to build on them and make them specific to your circumstances by using the SMART framework.

The SMART framework turns vague goals into clear, coherent, time-bound, actionable goals. Here is what it stands for:

  1. Specific: A specific goal clearly describes what you want to achieve, detailing exactly where you want to end up. 
  2. Measurable: A measurable goal means you have a way to gauge your progress and know definitively when the goal has been reached.
  3. Achievable: An achievable goal is realistic and attainable, meaning it’s within your capabilities and resources.
  4. Relevant: A relevant goal aligns with your broader objectives and ambitions, connecting directly to what you want to accomplish in the long term.
  5. Time-bound: A time-bound goal has a defined timeline, which sets a concrete end-point to aim for and prevents the task from continuing indefinitely.

Examples of SMART Short-Term Goals

Here are a few of the above listed goals, turned into SMART goals, to give you an exemplar to follow:

  1. Learn New Study Skills: Commit to learning one new study skill every week for the next two months, starting from next Monday, using resources from the school library and educational websites.
  2. Set a Target Grade for an Upcoming Test: Aim for a minimum score of 85% on your science test that is eight weeks away, by reviewing class notes, completing all revision exercises, and studying for at least one hour daily.
  3. Attend Open Office Hours: Schedule to attend your math teacher’s open office hours for 30 minutes every week for the rest of the semester, to discuss any learning difficulties and clarify questions.
  4. Develop a Habit of Reflection: Start a learning journal where you’ll write a reflective entry about what you’ve learned and its implications, three times a week for this entire school year.
  5. Finish Assignments in Advance: Aim to complete all assignments two days before their due date, for the remaining of the term, to allow time for proofreading and revisions.


Furthermore, research suggests that setting and achieving short-term goals can have a positive impact on students’ motivation and learning outcomes (Krumrei-Mancuso, Newton, Kim, & Wilcox, 2013). Meeting incremental goals can generate a rewarding sense of fulfillment and progress, fostering intrinsic motivation and perseverance. Past studies have also indicated that incorporating goal-setting practices into teaching can improve students’ metacognitive skills (Marzano, 2010). This empowers students to become more effective learners by enabling them to set realistic expectations, monitor their performance, and adjust their strategies as necessary. To illustrate, a student aiming to improve their essay writing skills would benefit from setting short-term goals like attending writing workshops (real-world example), practicing specific techniques, or completing a certain number of essays each month. 


Asafova, E., & Vashetina, O. (2022). Goal-setting as a condition for professional self-development of Master’s students in Teacher Training Programme. ARPHA Proceedings, 5, 97-107.

Friedman, B. A., & Mandel, R. G. (2009). The prediction of college student academic performance and retention: Application of expectancy and goal setting theories. Journal of college student retention: Research, theory & practice, 11(2), 227-246.

Gurley, D. K., Peters, G. B., Collins, L., & Fifolt, M. (2015). Mission, vision, values, and goals: An exploration of key organizational statements and daily practice in schools. Journal of Educational Change, 16, 217-242.

Hidayat, R., Moosavi, Z., & Hadisaputra, P. (2022). Achievement Goals, Well-Being and Lifelong Learning: A Mediational Analysis. International Journal of Instruction, 15(1), 89-112.

Krumrei-Mancuso, E. J., Newton, F. B., Kim, E., & Wilcox, D. (2013). Psychosocial factors predicting first-year college student success. Journal of College Student Development, 54(3), 247-266.

Marzano, R. J. (2010). Designing & teaching learning goals & objectives. Solution Tree Press.

Moeller, A. J., Theiler, J. M., & Wu, C. (2012). Goal setting and student achievement: A longitudinal study. The Modern Language Journal, 96(2), 153-169.

Nordengren, C. (2019). Goal-setting practices that support a learning culture. Phi Delta Kappan, 101(1), 18-23.

Nordengren, C. (2021). Step Into Student Goal Setting: A Path to Growth, Motivation, and Agency. Corwin Press.

Shi, Z. Q. (2018). Why Is It Important for Students and Teachers to Share Goals? (Doctoral dissertation, Columbia University).

Wilson, S. B., & Dobson, M. S. (2008). Goal setting: How to create an action plan and achieve your goals. AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

2 thoughts on “101 Short-term Goals for Students”

  1. Hi Dear,
    I read your article. It’s very helpful for me. Specially I like your SMART concept.
    Thank you and best wishes to your upcoming article. Hope it would be impressive and improving for me.
    Thanks again !

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