How College Students Can Set Goals and Why That’s Important

For me, goal-setting has been a important part of becoming my best self; it has helped me to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to feel productive and happy. Especially during the pandemic.

This is a unique in-between phase of life when we spend lot of time trying to find ourselves. These days can feel unstable as we sift through the endless possibilities of who we can become. Setting and achieving goals is a great way to figure out what you are passionate about.

Setting and achieving goals is a way to figure out what you’re passionate about. (Twenty20 @Lesia.Skywalker)

I use the SMART method when coming up with my goals: 

Specific: well defined, clear

Measurable: criteria to define when the goal is complete.

Achievable: attainable and possible for you to achieve.

Realistic: within reach and relevant to your life.

Time-bound: a clear timeline to complete the goal. 

Types of goals and how to achieve them

Career Goals

1. Find an internship

Having an internship is a huge step in college and it is imperative to have relevant experience so that you are more likely to attain a full-time job once you graduate.

The steps, or smaller goals, you could set to achieve this goal include the following: 

  • Revise your resume: Make sure that your resume is up to date and ready to go to apply for jobs. Double-check for any typos and have a parent or friend read it over to ensure it is ready to go. 
  • Create a list of companies you want to apply to: Do your research on companies that you are interested in working for after you graduate. 
  • Start applying to internships: You will also probably need to write cover letters for these internship applications. Make sure to personalize each cover letter. I recommend setting smaller goals, such as applying to five internships, then rewarding yourself, and then applying to five more, and so on. 

2. Go to a career fair 

This is an excellent way to find potential internships or jobs. Right now, most career fairs are virtual, which makes it even easier to attend because you don’t even have to leave your house! Check on your school’s career center webpage and check out the events coming up. There will also probably be webinars for resume and interviewing tips and other helpful advice to get started in the career you want. 

3. Make an appointment with career services at your school

The staff at the career services office are specifically there to help you achieve your career goals. Take advantage of this, since you are basically paying for the service. The career counselor can give you guidance on your resume, interview tips, and advice on how to get into the field you are interested in. 

4. Gain a leadership position

A leadership position will definitely stand out on your resume. Start by joining a club or campus organization and after a year of being involved, apply for a position. Or, start your own student club!

Academic Goals

1. Earn the best GPA you can

  • Start studying for every test a week in advance: Create a study plan where you map out what you are going to do each day so that you are able to master all of the material for the exam. 
  • Plan out your entire semester in advance in a calendar with due dates: This is super helpful to ensure that you don’t forget any assignments. 
  • Find a study buddy in each of your classes: Even if you don’t know anyone in your class, if your Zoom classes do smaller breakout rooms, this is the perfect opportunity to get your classmates’ contact information. Once you have their contact information, you can reach out and ask questions or even FaceTime each other to prepare for tests. 
  • Set a specific study time each week: This will help you maintain a sense of order and have a schedule, even if your classes are asynchronous. 
  • Don’t skip class: Most classes are online, so all you have to do is open up your laptop and log into the Zoom call or watch the pre-recorded lectures. Even though pre-recorded lectures may feel optional, it’s important to attend them. The professor created and recorded these lectures for a reason, and the material presented will probably be on tests.
  • Don’t procrastinate: Procrastinating is a horrible habit to get into, even though almost everyone does it at least sometimes. A good way to motivate yourself is to reward yourself once you have finished an assignment, such as getting your nails done, going for a walk, or watching your favorite show. 

2. Get to know at least one professor

This will be beneficial to you for future letters of recommendation. Find one professor you like and go to their office hours. Make sure to express interest in the class and ask any questions pertaining to the class or the professor’s area of expertise. 

Personal Goals

  1. Journal daily: This is a great goal to set and can improve your mental health. It is also a great way to unwind at night or to start your day. You can handwrite your journal or write your thoughts in a google doc.
  2. Meditate daily: This is another goal that will help you maintain good mental health. Meditation can help you relax and is a great activity if you are feeling anxious or have a lot going on in your life.
  3. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy: During the pandemic, it can be hard to motivate yourself to leave the house and exercise. Even just going for a walk or bike ride can be beneficial to your health. Or find yoga or other exercise classes on Zoom. 
  4. Reduce screen time: We have all become more and more reliant on social media. For me, too much screen time has a detrimental effect on my mental health and leads me to compare my life to other people’s curated images of theirs. I need to remind myself that people typically post the best parts of their lives not the negative aspects. And I need to take a break from social media sometimes.
  5. Learn to budget: You can create a budget in a notebook or online, make sure to stick to it. Plan out how much money you spend each month, taking into account groceries, clothes, eating out, phone bill, healthcare, gas, and anything you need to pay for yourself. 
  6. Read one book a month: You can create a reading list of books you are interested in. Then, whenever you have free time or just want to unwind and relax, read your book. 
  7. Eat a healthy diet: When you eat healthily, you feel better. Eat fruits and vegetables every day. 
  8. Spend more time outside: Read or do your schoolwork outside or go for a walk or bike ride. Being outdoors and immersed in the environment is good for the soul. 
  9. Get enough sleep: When you get enough sleep, you just feel better and are more productive during the day. Try to have a night routine and do something relaxing before bed such as reading, meditating, journaling, or listening to soft music. 

Remember, setting goals should add to your life, not make you more stressed out. If you don’t finish a goal on time, it’s okay. Give yourself time to get it done.

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About Madeleine Korn

Madeleine Korn is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. After graduating, she worked in marketing for a cybersecurity company for a year and a half. For the past year, she has been traveling the world while volunteering in hostels. Starting this fall, she will be teaching English in Spain. To learn more, here are her social media accounts: TikTok and Instagram. She loves writing and creating videos and really enjoys working for Grown and Flown!

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