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How to Set Rigorous Academic Goals in College

written by: Pam Tews•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 6/28/2011

These are some helpful tips on how to set rigorous academic college goals. Read on to learn how you can reach your goals in college!

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    Merriam-Webster defines the word 'goal' as the end toward which one's effort is directed. For many in college, goals often seem far out of sight, especially when they are freshmen. Many students come into college without a goal in mind other than to obtain a degree. While college prep classes in high school have taught many of us what college is supposed to be like, they never really taught us about setting rigorous academic goals. More than likely the goals we set for ourselves in college tend to be as light as the ones we set in high school such as “study one hour” or “get high marks on a Spanish test.” In college, goals need to be much more rigorous and we need to have consequences in order to stick to them. In order to survive college we, as students, must set both personal and educational goals.

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    Setting a Goal

    While the keyword here is rigorous, you want to follow these rules when making your goals for your education. You want to stay realistic, be positive, and set objectives. Realistic goals are easy to stick by. Instead of saying, “I will get a 4.0 average in all my classes,” choose the classes that you need for your major, as the ones you work the hardest in. Those are the classes that will be most looked at when you go to grad school. That does not mean slack in the others; it is just more realistic to work your hardest in two classes as opposed to five. Be positive, even if you get an 3.5 in the class you wanted to work the hardest at, take that for what it’s worth. Do not get yourself down because you still achieved your goal. Setting objectives is the best way to stick to your goals. Set three objectives that are going to help you achieve the goals. Be very clear on the objectives and as specific as possible. An objective that simply says “study” is not going to help much. To make a more rigorous outline of objectives, you want to say exactly what you need to pay the most attention to based on yourself. Some other things you want to keep in mind are making sure the goals you set are both doable and individual. If your goal is not doable, it will most likely fail and end up hurting you in the end. Make sure your goal is individual because you will not be satisfied if part of the group you are setting the goal for fails. For something geared more toward adult students, read Goal Setting for Adult Students, it address adult-specific goal setting.

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    Personal v. Educational Goals

    Now, there is one last thing everyone needs to remember. When setting rigorous academic goals, you want to keep your personal and educational goals separate. Grab a notebook and when you are writing out your goals, outline them on the first page and simply put PERSONAL or EDUCATIONAL after the goal. Make sure you outline everything on a separate page. That way, you keep your personal life and education as two planes of existence. Having them intermingle will cause much undue stress. Now what are the differences between these goals? Personal goals, in this case, can be defined as things like lose weight, have kids, or go on vacation. Educational goals are anything that deals with your college education. Try not to get them intertwined. Always keep both as detailed and rigorous as you can. The best way to stick to your goals is to add consequence and rewards.

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