How to Set and Achieve Educational Goals for the New Year

By Huntington Learning Center

With a new year on the horizon, now is a good time for your child to think about how to turn over a new leaf by setting some academic goals. Setting educational goals is valuable because it gets students planning ahead and taking ownership of their education. Goal setting is also an exercise in reflecting on the first half of the school year to determine what went well and what could have gone better. Here are several tips for parents to get their children started on setting those learning goals and taking steps toward them:  

Brainstorm both short-term and long-term goals. Talk with your child about what they would like to achieve in the new year. If that’s difficult for them to answer, try instead talking about what your child felt good about in the first part of the year. That might get them thinking about shorter-term goals like raising a grade or being more engaged in class. Long-term goals might be hard for your student to conceptualize but talk about what’s coming up in a year or longer. A middle school student might be thinking about applying to a competitive private high school or getting on the honors track in high school. A high school student might be starting to think about applying to colleges. Discuss what your student is excited about so that they can start to set bigger goals, which are great motivators.  

Get SMART with goal setting. You might have heard about SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. This type of goal setting encourages a growth mindset while keeping students focused and engaged in the things that are important to them. Here are a few tips on how your child can follow this framework when setting academic goals 

  • Get specific. Vague goals feel out of reach because it isn’t clear how to actually work toward them. Encourage your child to write down goals that are explicit, clear and reference all the important details (i.e., who, what, when, where, why, how). 
  • Make goals Goals that are tied to dates and broken down into steps are easiest to track. Your child should develop goals that have smaller milestones with due dates. 
  • Set goals that are achievable. Goals that are too big tend to feel out of reach, so it’s better to have your child set goals that feel personal to them. It’s okay to be ambitious, but have your child start with attainable goals that they are capable of working toward. 
  • Be relevant. Make sure your child sets goals that are aligned to their bigger purpose. If they’re a high school student planning ahead for college, for example, their goals should relate back to that. 
  • Give goals a timeframe. Time-bound goals keep your student on track by giving specific deadlines to strive toward. 

Give your child a few academic goals examples. Setting goals is worthwhile but might not come naturally to your child at first. As you start this process, talk about the SMART goals framework and examples of goals that meet each of those criteria. A few examples of academic goals for students of different ages:  

  • For the student who is trying to become more organized: I will keep my planner out in every class, write down assignments or reminders during the last few minutes of each class, and spend the last few minutes of study sessions every night updating my planner. 
  • For the student who is taking the SAT for the first time: I will start studying for the March 9th SAT on January 2nd and study at least four days a week for 20 or more
  • For the student who received a low grade in English last semester due in part to low weekly vocabulary quiz grades: I will create flash cards of each new unit’s vocabulary terms and review them for five minutes each night and five minutes over breakfast four days a week. 

Setting goals shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Students should adjust their goals as needed and set new ones when they achieve them. The continual process of having something to work toward puts students of all ages in the right mindset about school. Doing well requires effort and planning. The more your child embraces this, the more successful they’ll be as a student.

Whether your child is struggling in school or has big goals in mind—like getting into their dream college or earning scholarships—Huntington can help. Call us at 1-800 CAN LEARN to discuss how we can work with your child to set meaningful goals and develop a detailed plan to achieve them.


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