Goal setting is a very important part of starting a new semester, but it’s one that a lot of people often overlook. In the middle of purchasing textbooks and other school supplies, it’s a good idea to take some time to think about what you hope to accomplish during the semester. This includes academic goals, but it doesn’t have to end there – maybe you want to join a new club, work out more often, or even make healthier choices in the dining hall. All of these are great goals to have!
Making new semester goals does take some time and reflection. It’s important to think about any bigger goals you have beyond this semester and how this semester’s goals contribute to them. You should also look back on the previous year/semester and what worked (or didn’t work) for you – what types of goals have you been most successful with in the past, and which have been the most difficult to achieve?
That said, here are some tips for making and achieving your goals for the new semester:
- Start small and be realistic. Big goals are great, but when it comes to working towards those goals things can quickly become overwhelming. We’d all like to be that person who can get up early every single morning to study, and therefore always has assignments done ahead of time, but let’s be real, right? Instead, you could try to pick one or two days a week to get up early and study, and gradually add days over time. You’ll still get a lot more done, but you won’t have the added pressure of trying to do too much at the start.
- Know why they’re important. Here’s where it’s important to think about any bigger, long-term goals you have. Setting a goal, like a higher GPA, just because you feel like you should, or because it’s what everyone else is trying to do, won’t make you as motivated to complete it. It’s important to pick goals that mean something to you, such as wanting a higher GPA when you apply for graduate school, or even just for personal satisfaction. Understanding your own goals and why they’re important to you can help you figure out the steps to accomplishing them and also help you stay motivated when you’re struggling.
- Be specific. We all want to “earn good grades” and “eat healthier,” but those types of goals often don’t work because they aren’t specific enough. What is a good grade? How do we decide when we’re eating “healthier” without being specific? It’s so important to be specific with goals – wanting to maintain a certain GPA, for example, or committing to eating so many servings of vegetables each day. These are easier goals to measure and complete. Taking the time to define what success looks like for your goal is so helpful!
- Make a plan. Just like our professors are always reminding us to make an outline for our essays before we write them, it’s important to jot down the main steps you intend to take in order to achieve your goal. Whether that’s studying a certain number of hours each weekend to get the grade you want, meeting with your professors so many times during the semester to fully understand the material, or setting your alarm to make sure you get up in time to go to the gym, take some time to figure out a game plan and your goals will be much easier to achieve.
- Be flexible. While it’s great to start the semester with specific goals and plans in mind, things happen and sometimes we need to make changes. It’s okay to cut back to going to the gym two days a week instead of three if you find that you’re struggling to stay on top of your schoolwork, for example. Don’t be worried about setting your alarm an hour later than you planned to get up to study if you aren’t getting enough sleep. Achieving your goals are important, but so is taking care of yourself, so don’t be afraid to change your plans if you need to.
Goal-setting can be a very important and rewarding part of any semester!