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Steps to Goal Setting

Goal setting is a powerful process for envisioning your ideal future, habits, successes, and for motivating yourself to turn that vision of this future into reality. Student Success strives to help you create S.M.A.R.T. goals, meaning your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Lets work through our ten steps to setting and achieving a personal goal using the example of raising our semester GPA by 0.5 points.

Identify the Goal

After a period of self-reflection, you've assessed your previous semester's performance and determine you want to do better this coming semester. However, setting the simple goal of "raising my GPA" isn't enough. You need to narrow your focus in order to trace your steps and keep track of your progress. By clarifying you want to raise your GPA by 0.5 points, you've given yourself a measurable goal to work towards and under a set time frame spanning around four months.

At this very first step, you've knocked out the "S," "M," and the "T" for your S.M.A.R.T goal!

Relate it to a Value

Let's make it "R" or relevant. Ask yourself why this goal matters to you. What personal core value does this tap in to? If we align our goal with our personal life philosophy, we'll be more committed to pursuing it because it fulfills something fundamental.

Our goal of raising our semester GPA by 0.5 points can relate to personal values of growth, confidence, ongoing learning, skill acquisition and more.

Tell Five People

It's harder to quit a goal when there's multiple people expecting a progress report or an end result. Text your goal to a friend or tell them over coffee. Call a family member, or two, or three and have them ask about this goal in your next few phone calls. Tell your TA or professor during office hours. These people are now your accountability partners and can remind you of your goals every time you see or hear from them. 

List What You Need to Succeed

Write a short, broad list of what you need to make this GPA raise happen. You'll narrow this list down in these next steps, making our goal "A" or actionable. Some examples include:

  • A new personal schedule
  • Organization skills
  • Academic support
List Your Time Savers

Rather than try and reinvent the wheel by making all sorts of new guides or processes, assess what's already available to you on and off campus. Some examples include

  • Student Success Guides can help you draft a weekly or daily schedule
  • The Academic Learning & Tutoring Center can provide you with a central place to study and get support from trained tutors on difficult coursework.
  • Office hours, SI sessions, or meeting with a Teaching Assistant is another resource for academic support and questions.
  • Student Success workshops, one-on-one success coaching sessions, or meetings with a PSL can help you work on expanding and enhancing your academic skill set.
  • Appointments with your academic advisor can help you schedule courses that fit your academic plan and are a good personal fit.
List Predictable Obstacles

Because Netflix and outings with friends are all too tempting when you're in the thick of it. In your initial planning stages, brainstorm your personal distractions. Ask yourself how to can avoid these things all together or incorporate some moderation in your planning. Some examples include:

  • Streaming or social media– So I manually log out of Netflix on my laptop or delete apps from my phone if I'm studying for a big test or working on a big project.
  • Outings with Friends– So I say no to big or time-consuming plans until my test is over or I finished all my tasks for the day.
  • Trouble with coursework– So I schedule ahead my peer tutoring sessions, planning for a few throughout the semester, so I'm not cramming before exams.
List Some Single Daily Actions

Rather than make drastic and sudden changes that will feel impossible to stick to, ask yourself what are some small things you can do each day that allign with your personal schedule and will add up into big changes. Some examples include: 

  • Waking up earlier before morning classes– This allows for more time to review old course material, preview new material, make a to-do list, whatever you want.
  • Complete my homework before 5 p.m.– This frees the evening time for studying, rather than staying up late to do both and pulling an unintentional all-nighter.
  • Schedule self-care time in advance– Brain breaks are equally important. Take care of you first.
Define Your Support Structure

Achieving goals is hard! You may need an uplifting talk or outside help to make it reality. Ask yourself who or what is available to support you. Some examples include:

  • Family and friends
  • Your success coach
  • Your peer tutor
  • Your professor, SI, or TA
  • Your roommate or RA
  • Your favorite comfort food
  • Your bed 
List Your Rewards

Give yourself the extra incentive. What's something you can look forward to in addition to the satisfaction of seeing your final grades? Some examples include:

  • Making the Dean's List
  • Taking a big trip for the holiday break after exams
  • Splurging on a fancy dinner from some famous New Orleans restaurant
Name the Next Goal

There's no end on your journey to personal success! What's the next goal you want to tackle? Self-reflect and decide what's most important to you at this point and rework the steps. 


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Steps to Goal Setting