9 Goals for the School Year: What Are Your Educational Goals for 2024?
January is here — a new year, a fresh start. If you’re like many people, you may have some goals you want to accomplish in 2024. Setting some academic goals can help you stay focused and on track for the rest of the school year and beyond. Keep reading to learn more about academic goal setting.
What Are Academic Goals?
Academic goals are specific objectives or targets designed to help students focus on their studies, enhance their learning experiences, and achieve success in their academic endeavors. These goals can vary widely depending on your aspirations, educational level, and personal circumstances. However, these examples illustrate a few common educational goals:
- GPA improvement: This might involve improving grades in specific courses or maintaining a high overall GPA.
- Skill development: Setting goals to develop your academic skills can help you perform better in your classes. These goals might include improving writing, research, critical thinking, presentation, or study and self-study skills.
- Time management: These goals are designed to help you manage your time more efficiently, such as breaking down larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps or allocating time for regular study sessions.
- Learning a new skill or language: Some students set goals to learn a new skill or language, which may enhance their academic and professional profile.
9 Goals for the School Year: What Are the Goals of a Student?
It’s important to set realistic goals for your education that align with your broader career and personal goals. Regularly reviewing and reassessing your educational goals can help you stay focused, motivated, and on track to achieve academic success.
Improve Your GPA
Grades are the most important factor that college admissions committees consider, so it’s no wonder that many students want to improve their GPA. That said, don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself by setting unrealistic expectations — if you’re exhausted and burned out from the effort of getting straight A’s, it’s not worth it.
According to IvyWise counselor Eric, “if you are a student whose transcript looks like alphabet soup, the world welcomes you — and so will good colleges where you will find your people! You are in good company.” Setting school year goals you can realistically stick to will help you stay motivated.
No matter what your first-year grades look like, it’s important to maintain an upward grade trend throughout your four years — that is, improving your grades each semester. College admissions officers look for this upward grade trend in transcripts as an indication of academic readiness when it comes time to transition to the more challenging rigor of college-level classes. If you started your high school career with straight A’s, work to maintain that streak! If you started with B’s or C’s, on the other hand, this is the perfect opportunity to improve.
Prepare for the SAT & ACT
It’s important to know when to start SAT prep — or ACT prep, if that’s your preference. Even though many schools remain test-optional, test scores can still be an important factor in the college admissions process. So, it’s in your best interest to take the SAT or ACT and get the highest score you can. If you’re unsure about where to start, take a diagnostic test for each exam to determine whether to choose the SAT or ACT.
IvyWise Master Tutor Joey suggests that high school students start test prep during their sophomore year. Whether you choose the SAT or ACT, Joey advises to “set achievable goals in a timeframe that makes them possible… By setting goals and allowing ample time, you can more readily space out your test prep sessions and practice tests.” This will give you enough time to make improvements and build your confidence so you feel prepared on test day.
Create a Career Plan
Many students see their education as a means to prepare for a future career and set goals related to gaining the necessary qualifications and experiences. Research industries, job roles, and environments that align with your interests and skills. And if you have identified a specific career, look at the education and training requirements.
You can set both short-term and long-term goals related to your career plan. A short-term goal might be finding a relevant summer internship that will help you build your resume. A long-term goal might be to complete a graduate program or obtain certifications, depending on the career you choose. If you’re unsure about where to start, your school counselor or an independent college admissions counselor can help identify some areas of interest and can even help you develop an independent project to explore and hone your interests.
Build Your Profile
A strong student profile includes the activities, awards, and accomplishments you will include in your college and scholarship applications. This typically includes:
- Extracurricular activities starting from ninth grade, including student clubs and organizations, independent projects, community service, jobs, and internships
- Awards related to your academic performance and/or community service work
- Academics, including your GPA, class rank, test scores, and other relevant information
Course rigor, GPA, and test scores are important in college admissions; however, it’s also important to make an impact in your extracurricular activities. According to IvyWise counselor Katie, “don’t underestimate the value admission officers see in you committing long-term to an activity, showing up for practice every day, working hard, contributing to group efforts, and navigating challenges — all great qualities that colleges look for in their prospective students.”
Learn How to Self-Study
Setting a relevant goal for self-studying can help you improve your GPA and prepare for the more independent learning environment you will experience in college. Self-studying can help you prepare for AP exams or delve deeper into subjects that interest you — especially if your school’s curriculum doesn’t meet your needs. It’s also a great way to prevent summer brain drain.
As you’re learning to self-study, experiment with different approaches to find what works best for you. Combine reading with watching videos, listening to podcasts, or participating in online activities. If you take online courses to supplement your school learning, you can add these to your college application once you complete them.
Learn How to Manage Your Time
Knowing how to manage your time is critical to your academic success, and learning how to plan your time helps you feel more organized and less stressed. IvyWise Executive Functioning Coach Lorenza advises students to start planning out their year first. Then get more detailed by planning out smaller increments of time (semester, month, week) down to each day.
“Students should set aside an hour a week to schedule what is due and get it out of their mind and onto the calendar,” Lorenza says. “Once they can do that, they can focus on working on those specific tasks that have been laid out on the calendar and adjust when needed.” Check out more of our time management tips for students.
Learn How to Stay Resilient Without a Lot of Stress
Balancing academics with extracurriculars and family life can be stressful, but there are steps you can take to build resilience and manage stress more effectively. It’s important to focus on your physical and emotional wellbeing by getting enough sleep, exercising, eating a balanced diet, engaging in hobbies you enjoy, and practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques. You may also find it helpful to cultivate a positive mindset by challenging negative thoughts and focusing on solutions instead of problems.
Learning how to say no is also important. You can wear yourself out quickly by overcommitting, so politely decline additional responsibilities or tasks if they contribute to excessive stress. It’s also important to practice self-compassion — understand that everyone faces difficulties and setbacks, and it’s okay to ask for help. And don’t forget to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement can enhance resilience.
Improve Public Speaking Skills
Public speaking skills can benefit you academically, personally, and professionally. If this is an area you need to work on, you can build up your confidence by practicing in front of a mirror and recording yourself to identify areas for improvement. You may also find it helpful to watch TED Talks, both to observe the speakers’ techniques and for inspiration. Study their audience engagement techniques and how they structure their speeches.
Start small by speaking up more in class. As you get more comfortable speaking in public, consider joining your school’s debate club or participating in events that give you a chance to practice your public speaking skills. And don’t forget non-verbal communication! Pay attention to your body language, facial expressions, and gestures, and practice making eye contact with your audience.
Socialize with Peers
Socializing may seem counterproductive to your academic goals; however, it benefits you in many ways. It contributes to a positive and collaborative learning environment, enhances communication and teamwork skills, and provides the emotional support essential for academic success. Engaging with a variety of viewpoints enhances your critical thinking skills and broadens your understanding of different subjects.
Other benefits of socializing with your peers include networking opportunities and improved teamwork, leadership, and communication skills. Working with diverse groups of people also increases your cultural and social awareness. Of course, you can also build new friendships, reduce stress, promote a sense of belonging, and strengthen your support system — all of which will help you academically and personally.
How to Set Goals for the School Year
SMART goals are a framework for setting effective educational goals that are clear, focused, and attainable — they work for career and life goals, too. What are SMART goals? SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. By incorporating these elements into your goal-setting process, you create a roadmap that guides your efforts, increases motivation, and provides a clear way to measure your progress. Here’s a breakdown of each element of a SMART goal:
- Clearly define what you want to accomplish.
- Specify the who, what, where, when, and why of the goal.
- Establish criteria to track progress and determine when the goal is achieved.
- Quantify or qualify the goal to make it measurable.
- Ensure that the goal is realistic and attainable.
- Consider the resources, skills, and time available to achieve the goal.
- Ensure that the goal aligns with your overall objectives and is relevant to your priorities.
- Consider how the goal fits into the broader context of your personal or academic development.
- Set a specific timeframe for achieving the goal.
- Establish deadlines to create a sense of urgency and focus.
Let’s say you want to set a goal to increase your overall GPA from 3.0 to 3.5 by the end of the academic semester. Here’s what that looks like with the SMART framework:
- What: Increase overall GPA
- Why: To enhance academic performance and unlock opportunities for future academic and career pursuits
- How: By implementing effective study strategies and prioritizing academic tasks
- Current GPA: 3.0
- Target GPA: 3.5
- Measurement: Track GPA regularly through academic transcripts and grade updates.
- Resources: Utilize tutoring services, form study groups, and attend office hours for clarification.
- Study Habits: Develop a structured study schedule, participate actively in class, and seek additional learning resources when needed.
- Alignment: Improving GPA is directly related to achieving academic success and can help me get closer to reaching my career goals.
- Personal Values: Achieving a higher GPA aligns with the personal goal of continuous improvement and excellence.
- Timeline: Achieve the target GPA of 3.5 by the end of the next academic semester.
- Intermediate Milestones: Set specific GPA targets for the midpoint of the semester to track progress.
How to Reach Your Goals During Your School Year
A strategic approach is crucial for achieving educational goals because it involves careful planning, thoughtful decision-making, and a systematic course of action. If you want to improve your GPA, for example, you need to devise a strategy for achieving this goal. Will you rely only on self-discipline and determination, or will you reach out for external help, such as tutoring services or group study sessions? Think about what approach works best for you to achieve your goals.
Just be careful not to set too many goals. IvyWise counselor Robin advises students to prioritize their college prep goals instead of trying to tackle too many things all at once. Watch the video to find out more:
A little extra support can go a long way toward helping you achieve your educational goals. IvyWise college admissions counselors are committed to helping students stay on track academically and with their extracurriculars to give them the best chance of gaining acceptance into their best-fit college programs. Contact us to learn more about how we tailor our counseling services to your needs.