Setting Goals for the New Semester

It’s that time of year again! Classes are starting back up, and students are wondering what the new semester will bring. How much homework will I have? Will this semester be easier? There are very few who think about what they would like to accomplish this semester. Nonetheless, setting goals is an important, yet often forgotten step toward being prepared for the semester.

Setting goals is a valuable tool that can help the school year run smoothly. Creating goals gives students a clear idea of what they want to accomplish, provides steps to meet those targets, and motivates them to follow through with the plan. When setting goals, follow these steps:

  • Discuss what the goals should be.
  • Set achievable goals.
  • Implement steps to reach the goals.
  • Reevaluate the goals from time to time.

Discuss: Before school starts, sit down with your student and think about what goals to set this year. Discuss previous semesters. Make sure to emphasize the positives of last semester and how those successes can be built upon. Keep in mind that being overly critical can make students shut down and not want to participate in the conversation. Instead of dwelling on previous failures, suggest what improvements can be made to ensure the same problems do not arise this semester. This discussion will set the foundations of this semester’s goals.

Achievable: After talking about last semester, decide what this semester’s goals will be. Whatever the goals are, make sure they are clear, well thought out, and realistic. An example of a good goal is “I got a ‘C’ in math last semester, so this semester I will get a ‘B’ in math.” The goal is specific and can be measured. A bad goal would be “I will do better in math.” This is too vague and has no clear way to measure progress. Goals do not always have to be school related. Another excellent goal is “I was not involved in enough outside activities last semester, so I will participate in two different clubs this semester.” Goals can be about anything so long as they are thought-out and well-written.

Implement: Now that the goals are set, it is time to think about the steps needed to achieve them. If the goal is a “B” in math class, some steps to achieving this are doing homework every night, keeping track of the next test date, and studying for the test starting a week in advance. Mapping out the steps in between is an important part of the process. It shows what needs to be done in order to achieve a goal and if performance is being made in the right direction.

Reevaluate: The last step to setting goals is to keep track of progress and to adjust the goals as needed. Regularly look at the goals and steps; compare them to what is being done. This helps determine whether or not the goals need to be adjusted. If math class is easy and all the steps are being fulfilled, perhaps the goal should be revised. Instead of aiming for a “B” in math, elevate the goal to earning an “A” in math second semester. On the other hand, if math is a struggle, think about why that is the case. Was the goal too ambitious or the steps not clearly defined? The goal may have to be redefined, but it is more likely that each step could be completed better or more consistently. Reevaluating the goals is an important step in the goal making process because it is a clear indicator of whether or not the goal will be reached.

Not all goals are as easily accomplished as expected. Whether or not the goal is extremely ambitious, if it is a necessary goal and is difficult to reach do not be afraid to seek outside help like after school tutoring. Our article on Free Educational Resources outlines several options for additional academic help.

The beginning of the semester is an exciting time. There are a lot of adjustments for a student to handle like remembering to get up early and get back into homework mode. One tool that will make the transition easier is setting goals at the beginning of the semester. Start out on the right foot and use the positive momentum throughout the wonderful year.

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3 Responses to “Setting Goals for the New Semester”

  1. 1 Dan March 5, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    If you’d like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

    • 2 Cardinal Education March 5, 2012 at 1:33 PM

      Thanks for the tip. We often use Evernote or Asana for project tracking. We find that the most definite way that a student can track herself is with a handy, old-school physical planner. Many schools ban the use of cell phones and other devices in class, but they do permit students to use a physical planner at any time.

  1. 1 How to Avoid Summer Knowledge Loss « Cardinal Education Trackback on August 7, 2012 at 10:02 AM

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