Complete Your Goals with the S.M.A.R.T. Approach

Today’s goal setting blog post is brought to you by the Student Success Coaches. Do you have any questions about goal setting, time management, or resources available to you? Contact your Success Coach at or 703.764.5076 for tips for success and resources to help you have a successful semester.goal setting Are you feeling defeated, before you even get started, when trying to achieve a new goal? Do you feel like it is trying to climb a mountain? Do you find that your current method of writing down goals such as, ‘buy a new car’, ‘get my own apartment’ or ‘get my degree’ is not working? If you answered, ‘yes’, it is time to get motivated and adopt the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting approach. Unlike an undefined goal such as, ‘get my degree’, the S.M.A.R.T. approach enables you to clearly define a plan and stick to it. If you are not familiar with the S.M.A.R.T. process, it stands for:

S- Specific, M – Measurable, A – Attainable, R – Realistic, T – Time-bound (timely)

The S.M.A.R.T. approach will put you in control. It will provide a better vision, motivation and promote your confidence as you see your goals coming to life. For starters, ask yourself, “what do I want to achieve”? Let’s say you want to complete your degree. Using the S.M.A.R.T. framework,

  1. Specific Goal: I want to complete my Associates Degree in General Studies within the next 3 years.
  2. Measurable Goal: With this specific component of the process, you can measure your progress by the credits you complete which will ultimately result in the degree. If your goal is to complete a degree, you could write up your measurement, ‘I will complete a maximum of 15 credits each semester and no less than 6 until my A.S. Degree is completed’. As you complete each class, you will watch the credits grow! Be flexible, if you need to take less than 12 credits some semesters, you will still accumulate credits and move forward.
  3. Attainable/Achievable: Make sure you will be willing to stick with your goal and be in control. Do not take on more than you can accomplish. Ask, ‘have others done this successfully’, ‘do I have the necessary resources, skills and abilities to achieve this goal’? Plan and make sure there will not be stumbling blocks that could defeat you and do not be afraid to ask for help!
  4. Realistic: Make sure that you will be able to complete your goal. Don’t take on more than you can handle which may result in overwhelming yourself and giving up.
  5. Time-bound: Set an end date to achieve your goal and consider setting up check points along the way. For example, after attending classes for a year, check to see how many credits you have completed. Are you well on your way or you need to adjust your goal and add an extra semester? That’s okay! In the end, setting a manageable timeline will help you stay motivated and on track.

Don’t let your goals paralyze you, stay flexible, and don’t stress if life interferes and you need to make alterations along the way. Stick to the S.M.A.R.T. approach that will guide you down the road to success! To help develop your goal, click on this S.M.A.R.T. goal questionnaire. If you are more of an auditory learner, click here, for a well-developed YouTube video that explains and outlines the S.M.A.R.T. process.