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Happy young woman sitting at home with pen and paper

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This statement indicates that a lack of planning is strongly associated with failure. It is important for people to plan for success if they want to succeed in college. They can do this by setting and achieving goals. Goals are action-based statements that explain what is wanted or desired to achieve in the future. These goals are the “prize” for a person to keep their eyes on. In other words, these goals will define the direction in which a person wants their future to go. 

Key Terms

  • Commitment
  • Dedication
  • Hard Work
  • Goals

Goal Setting 

Goal setting is the process taken to achieve the desired results. This process starts with knowing what is desired to be accomplished and taking the necessary steps to accomplish those goals. Goal setting demands that people take a realistic look at the future work and sacrifices needed to reach the established goals. The following are some general tips or strategies people should keep in mind as they set their goals.

Write Out The Goals 

Putting the goals in writing helps people remember what their goals are. It also helps to bring clarity to what that person wants in the future. Writing the goals can also help prevent distractions by focusing on the things that are important. Being able to visually see the goals each day can be a strong reminder of a person’s progress and will help to keep them motivated. 

Make SMART Goals

SMART goals are ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

Specific. People should be specific about what they want to achieve. Provide clear details on why, what, where, when, and how the goals will be achieved or what will be done. When goals are specific, action steps or an action plan for meeting those goals are easier to develop. 

Measurable. Goals must provide measures for determining if they are being achieved (e.g., maintain a B average in all courses). These measures offer evidence of progress while helping people stay on track to reaching their goals. 

Attainable. Goals should be achievable. People should be able to accomplish their goals within a specific timeframe. People should ask themselves if the goals they are setting are doable. Also, they should determine if they have the skills and resources needed to achieve the goals. The set goals should be challenging enough to require people to put in hard work, sacrifice, and dedication to achieve them, but remember they should be within a person’s reach. 

Relevant. Set goals that support the desired life direction and should line up with a person’s values. By considering the relevance of the goals, people start to focus on the significance of having specific goals. Understanding the motivation for having particular goals will help people to prioritize the goals. 

Time-bound. When setting goals, include deadlines and target dates for completion. Having a “by when” or designated time attached to the goals will promote a sense of urgency, motivating people to complete their goals. 


  • Students should plan to be successful as they transition to this new phase of their life.
  • Be clear about what is wanted out of a college experience.
  • People should determine what they want to achieve and plan to achieve it. Start by setting goals. The set goals will provide direction and keep people focused.
  • Be committed to achieving the goals. Write the goals down in order to see them each day and monitor their progress. Also, remember to make SMART goals. Setting SMART goals not only helps people monitor their progress, it also enables people to determine the steps needed to accomplish the goals more easily.


  1. People that have not started their first year of college should imagine how they want their first year to look, and imagine their success. How does it look? What was done that helped to achieve success? Put this response in Column A.
  2. Using the response from Column A, write two SMART goals that will be accomplish in the first year of college. Write these goals in Column B. Be sure to make the goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

This is your future, so be serious about it.

Blank Table with two columns, A and B. Column A has one blank space white column B is divided into two blank sections.

More Information

For more information, contact the Alabama Extension urban regional agent serving your area.

  • Lauderdale County – Darlene Minniefield (256) 349-8956
  • Mobile County – Pamela Irby (251) 423-8998
  • Calhoun County – Bre Steele (256) 294-5409