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Creating SMART Goals to Help You Earn Your Degree

As Yogi Berra once said, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”

For many, earning a college degree is a lifelong goal. Goals like this give us something to strive for, to motivate us and work toward. They can be achieved with the same skills taught in the military – hard work, dedication and planning. It’s the planning part, establishing a clear path toward the goal, which is most often overlooked.

SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound – can help you create an educational goal. An educational goal will let you focus on your degree program and use your time wisely.

Specific – Specific goals are clear, focused, concise and well-defined. They answer the questions Who/What/When/Where/Why/How about your goal. When you are specific, you help focus your ambition on your highest priority. For example:

  • General: Get a degree.
  • Specific: I am going to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from ABC University.

Measurable – Measuring your progress by setting and monitoring things like deadlines, credit hours, grade point averages, or number of semesters helps keep you on track. When you are able to monitor your progress as you reach your targets, that feeling of success will motivate you to keep going.

  • Not measurable: Get a degree.
  • Measurable: I am going to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from ABC University, by the summer of 2014. 
Attainable – An attainable goal is ambitious without being unrealistic. It sets your sights on something that might challenge and stretch you, but doesn’t set you up for failure. Setting goals that you know are not attainable makes the goal completely meaningless.  
  • Not attainable: Get my degree by next summer. 
  • Attainable: I am going to earn my degree in Civil Engineering from ABC University. 
Relevant – A relevant goal is one that you are both willing and able to work toward. It answers the question: Is this goal worthwhile?
  • Not realistic: Get my degree next month. 
  • Realistic: I will take three classes a semester and pass all of my exams to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from ABC University... 
Time-bound – Set a starting point and an ending point in time for achieving your goal.  
  • Not time-bound: Get my degree in a few years. 
  • Time-bound: I am going to enroll in three classes per semester tomorrow at ABC University and pass all of my exams to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering by the summer of 2014. 

Factors to Ensure Success: 
  1. Your goals should be written down in positive terms. 
  2. Your goals should be posted in a prominent place (by your desk, or on your refrigerator), so you see them daily and can stay focused. 
  3. The goals need to be your own; what you want for yourself, not what others want for you. 
  4. Be flexible, your goals can and will change as your circumstances change. 
"The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore." ~Dale Carnegie

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