How Can I Set Academic Goals?

Common core education in America ensures that children receive a standardized education that is at least equal to that of their peers. While common core will prepare you to achieve the basic skills needed to do well in college or university, depending on your highly personalized goals, you will need to reach beyond what common core can provide you. Your school day should not end when the bell rings. Depending on your goals, you may need to take extra-curricular programs like Kumon Math, or hire an academic coach or tutor to help you excel in your academic goals and to make sure that you are on the path to success.

The vast majority of goals, especially in academia, are not impossible to achieve. They just take careful planning and dedication. While it is near impossible to win the Fields Medal in Math, or the Nobel Prize in Literature (these are more left to chance than merit), other seemingly unattainable goals like becoming a doctor or a tenured university professor are actually realistic goals and can be achieved through hard work and dedication. You just need to map out your progression to achieve your goals. An academic coach is there to help you find the best path for you.

Doctors must do well in pre-med during their undergraduate degree, gain acceptance to medical school, become a resident at a teaching hospital, and become certified as a doctor to complete this goal. To become a tenured professor, you must obtain a PhD in your desired field, publish scholarly papers, and apply to a university to teach. After a number of years, you can become tenured by your institution. For some, this may seem easy to do, but for others, this can be a daunting task and it may seem impossible to find a logical starting point.

Listed below are several examples of how you can create academic goals to help you achieve your wildest dreams.

  • Split your goals up in terms of whether you can achieve them in the short-term or long-term. Although you will have to make progress daily in your goals to eventually achieve them, it will help you to stay organized if you separate them first. It is important that you identify which tasks are important in the immediate, and which ones require long-term effort in order to achieve. Think, next week's essay vs. achieving a high grade on your MCAT. Both are equally as important, but are completed at different paces.
  • The necessary preparation work for college or university actually starts in high school. You need to set a stable foundation for learning if you want to fully take advantage of your undergraduate career. You probably have a desired career path in mind. Work backwards from your eventual goal and determine which high school courses will help you prepare to achieve it. If you want to become a mathematician, you will need to excel in all your high school mathematics courses. If you want to work in the United Nations, you will need to excel in all your high school history, political science, and English classes. Taking a foreign language class is also helpful. In addition, taking Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes in high school will allow you to learn at a college-level while still in high school. If you take these courses, they will seem hard at first, but you will be better prepared for your classes once you arrive at college or university.
  • Now that you have a desired career path in mind, write down the trajectory needed to achieve it. One effective technique to visualize your future success is to draw this trajectory on a piece of bristol board, complete with pictures suitable to each step (for instance, place a picture of a doctor under the “Medical School” step). If you hang this bristol board on your wall, you will be reminded of your goals every time you are in your room. This simple technique goes a long way to helping you stay motivated and dedicated to achieving your goals. We learn a lot more effectively when we can visualize the material and our overall goals.
  • Now that you have chosen the courses you need in high school, look at the syllabus handed out in the first class, and any assignment rubrics you have received after that. Plot out all your assignment due dates on your calendar. Then, working back from each due date to the present day, break up each assignment into smaller chunks. This will allow you to steadily do your assignments without having to stress over due dates or feel overwhelmed, the closer to each due date you are. If you need help to make the process of writing assignments more efficient and easier for you, contact an academic coach today. They will help you create a system to write all your assignments early and stress-free.
  • You have probably heard the phrase, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” If you submit your assignments, or write your exams, and you find you did not do as well as you thought you did (for instance, you may have received a 70% on an assignment and were hoping for 95%), schedule an appointment with your teacher to go over the assignment in question and ask them to explain where you made your mistakes. High school teachers really want their students to do well and they will go the extra mile to help you, especially if you put the time and effort into improving yourself.
  • Understand that you may not enjoy every step required to achieve your goals. If they were easy to obtain, everyone would want them. You may have to prioritize studying for standardized tests over going out with friends, and there may be days when you would like to do anything but work towards your goals. Everyone experiences this at one time or another. It is going to be a tough grind but you need to remain focused and committed to your goals. However, if you need the occasional “breather” day, take it. There is no point getting stressed out, or burned out, over the long-term.
  • We referred to the phrase “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” earlier. This phrase also has an impact on your trajectory and eventual goals as well. If, for instance, you want to become a doctor, but you burnout in medical school, dropout, and apply to dental school instead because you would rather become a cosmetic dentist than a general physician, this is not a failure. You have simply switched trajectories and goals. Keeping an open and optimistic mind will help you whenever you feel bogged down or if things do not work out as you planned them too. An academic coach can help you stay focused on your goals, especially if you feel you need a goal change. Do not fear change, it happens to everyone.
  • Make time for friends and family. Your trajectory and goals may be the most important thing in the world to you, especially when it comes to your future career. However, hanging out with family and friends every so often can help you stay positive and focused on achieving your goals. Do not think of having fun as a waste of time or a distraction that pulls you away from your goals. Think of fun as a motivational factor that helps you remain focused on continually achieving success.

If you would like a personalized academic plan, or you need help with structuring your academic goals, contact an academic coach today. Academic goal planning isn't easy and it is important to find a path that will make you happy in both short-term and long-term.

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