The start of the new year brings an opportunity to start fresh, students can do this by setting new goals, both personally and academically. Goal setting is a powerful tool that can help students learn to face challenges and be accountable, it can also be a great motivator by providing a clear sense of purpose and direction. As we enter into this new year, explore the importance of goal setting with your students by adopting SMART and stretch goals that can turn student aspirations into attainable achievements.

Why is Goal Setting So Essential for Students in the New Year

A new year provides a sense of renewal, starting the new year off with a fresh set of goals will provide students with a sense of direction. Think of it like a personal roadmap to success. Through the process of goal setting, students will learn to stay focused and motivated. They will cultivate skills like time management, and perseverance as well as learn self-discipline. Their goals will serve as a motivator and help contribute to a mindset they will carry with them beyond the classroom, equipping them with the tools to achieve their full potential.

What Kinds of Goals Can Students Set for Themselves?

Students can set various goals for themselves, whether academic, social, behavioral, or personal. A typical, generic goal a student may make for themselves may be to improve their grades, be more respectful to others, or be a better friend. While this may be a good starting point, teaching students to make that are more specific versus vague will provide them with a structured framework to accomplish their goals.

SMART goals stand for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, or relevant, and timely or trackable. They must be attainable and require effort to achieve them. So instead of setting a vague goal such as, “I want to improve my grades this semester,” a SMART goal would be more specific, like, “I will get an 85 or higher in math this semester.”

Stretch goals are goals that require students to “think big.” While they may seem out of reach, when paired with SMART goals and broken down into steps or smaller goals, they are achievable. SMART and stretch goals serve two different purposes. encourage students to aim high and set ambitious objectives, while SMART goals help to form a plan to get to the stretch goal. These two different types of goals can be used in conjunction with one another to help students reach for the stars.

Here is an example of a student’s stretch + SMART goal and how they plan on achieving their goal.

  • Stretch Goal– Get on the National Honor Society by the end of the school year.
  • Specific– Maintain an overall GPA of 90 or higher, plus join school clubs and sports teams to ensure acceptance into the NHS.
  • Measurable– Grades will be “honor roll” worthy, join the yearbook committee and the volleyball team.
  • Achievable– Yes, as long as my overall grades stay at about 90 percent, and I make the volleyball team.
  • 𲹱پ– I will keep my grades up by studying every day and practicing volleyball each night until I make the team.
  • Timeline– At the end of each week I will check my grades as well as check in with my teachers to see how I’m doing. I will also practice volleyball each night.

As you can see in this example the stretch goal is to make the National Honor Society. However, to do so, the student must maintain an overall GPA of 90 percent and be part of a school club and sports team. Their SMART goals listed specific ways they would achieve what they thought was an impossible goal in the timeframe of the rest of the school year.

How to Help Students Set Goals

Helping students to set achievable goals involves teaching them the importance of goal setting, guiding them through the process, and encouraging them to keep going until they’ve reached their goal. Follow these steps to ensure your students succeed.

Teach the Importance of Goal Setting

Goal setting can be powerful, it can improve your confidence, help you make more informed decisions, and be a great motivator in your life. To help get students to get on board with setting new goals this new year, share with them how powerful setting a goal and achieving it can be. You can do this by sharing how you have set and achieved a recent goal. Here is an example.

“I wanted to take my children on a vacation, but to do so, I had to go on a budget. This means that I could not go to Starbucks in the morning or go out to lunch with my friends. I had to save money so that my family could afford to go on a vacation.”

This example shows students that you had to sacrifice the things you liked to do for a positive outcome. In this case, the students will see that you had to plan for your trip by budgeting for your family to go on vacation.

Develop a Method to Achieve the Goal

Once students brainstorm a list of achievable goals, go through the list with them to ensure they are not unrealistic. Then have students choose a final goal and go through the specific SMART goal steps (listed above) on how they plan on achieving that goal. Students can also break their goals down into specific smaller steps.

Meet Once a Month to Check-in

Each month meet with students to see how their goals are developing. Use this time to offer them guidance or motivation if they are feeling discouraged. Ensure them that by next month’s meeting, they will be back on track and moving even closer to reaching their goal.

This new year, by adopting the SMART criteria, students will transform their goals into actionable plans that they will achieve.