top of page

How to Set Goals and Achieve More as a Student

Updated: May 23, 2023

Setting goals is an important part of any successful education, but it's especially important when you're a student. Why? Because setting goals will help you achieve your educational objectives faster and easier, and with much less stress!

Goal-setting should be broken down into two categories: short-term and long-term goals.

Short-term goals should be focused on achieving specific results within the next few weeks, months, or years. They are helpful in guiding your daily activities and helping to keep you motivated.

Long-term goals tend to be more ambitious - they cover a longer period of time (often several years). They provide direction for your entire career path or academic journey, and can help you see how all of your past experiences have led up to this point. Long term goals also allow for room for growth and change over time; as new information becomes available, your long term goal may need to be revised accordingly.

Get Organised And Make A Plan For Your Goals

Most people tend to have a good idea of their long term goals - you've chosen to enrol to a course that will, to a fair degree, define your career. But it's the short term actions and how to get to your end goal that's the tricky part, and it requires organisation and planning to ensure success.


Monthly goal planner

The go-to solution is to use SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely goals.

SMART goals are useful because, firstly, they help you to focus and stay motivated. By setting specific, measurable objectives that you hope to achieve, you can create a clear path forward which ensures that you don't spend your time aimlessly wandering around in search of something to do.

Secondly, SMART goals provide realistic expectations for yourself and allow you to track your progress over time. This information can help guide future decisions regarding your career or personal life. If it's determined that the original goal is no longer possible or desirable then adjustments can be made quickly and easily. This is especially useful for students who need to manage a busy schedule of classes, socialising and travelling, self-initiated work and potentially even part-time employment.

Write It Down

Man writing goals in a notebook

Make sure that your are writing all of your plans out and making notes to keep track of your progress. Without a written plan and record, you'll struggle to remember all of the goals that you've set yourself.

You might also find it difficult to focus on the immediate priorities and get completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of your end goal. As a student, you'll have enough to remember with the flood of new information you're researching and learning. So, by writing everything down, you'll have a solid plan and notes to refer back to and adjust as you progress towards your primary goal.

Break It Down

Person holding block

Particularly relevant if you're having trouble achieving your current smart goals - setting smaller objectives and breaking down a current goal into bite-sized chunks will make it much easier to keep making progress.

Rather than trying to achieve an unrealistic goal right away, and then being frustrated because you've been on that one goal for too long. This also allows for gradual improvement, which is key for long term success.

Create The Right Environment For Achieving Goals

External factors can play a role in slowing down progress when trying to achieve goals. Particularly as a student, there may be many distractions competing for your attention. And though a work-life balance is important, it's of upmost importance to make your work time really count.

Positive Work Environment

Bright student workspace

Create a positive environment for yourself. Make sure that the surroundings in which you work are conducive to achieving success - choose an office space that has plenty of natural light, perhaps with brighter colours and positive artwork.

If it's available, a dedicated work space is the best solution. That way, you won't be sitting in the same place as you are eating or relaxing, and that space can be primarily for work to help you get in the zone.

Routines And Rituals

Person meditating

Find or create a routine that enhances your productivity and well-being. Perhaps you like to workout or go for a run first thing in the morning, and it makes you fired up and ready to work.

Or maybe you could try meditation or mindfulness to help focus on what's important to you - what makes you happy, proud, or satisfied. Taking the time to reflect on these values will help keep you focused and driven during the difficult times ahead.

Emotional Support System

Supportive student friends high-fiving

Find an emotional support system to remove any feeling of isolation on your journey towards great success. You may be away from friends and family while at University, but it's important to make the time to talk to those who will encourage and support you throughout the process. Being able to talk through both achievements and issues will ultimately help you to maintain process, and knowing that you've got people on your side provides additional motivation to keep going.

Stay On Track With Your Goals

Without hard work, goals can't be achieved. That being said, it's important to take time out for yourself, make the most of your current position, and celebrate your successes - no matter how small.

Reward Yourself

Student holding shopping bags

Along the way, as you achieve goals, reward yourself to keep up the good spirits and positively reinforce your progress.

Go out for dinner with friends or buy that something that you've been wanting. It's important to find ways of celebrating successes even when they haven't come easy yet!

By working with the idea of reward for hitting goals, instead of a daunting feeling of future goals looming over you, you'll be excited to take on each goal knowing that you'll get some immediate gratification.

Avoid Burnout

Stressed out student working on laptop

Burnout is very real, and as a student, you're likely to have a lot going on in your life that requires a lot of thought, organisation and management. For that reason, it's important to check in with yourself and figure out a manageable work-life balance that is both fair to your goal-achieving progress and your well-being. And it's important to realise this before being hit by burnout.

If you're making the most of your working time, you don't need to be working from morning until night. Take small breaks and bigger breaks where appropriate - the reward concept also works here with many people having great success from say 50 minutes of work followed by a 10 minute break.

Embrace The Experience

Students laughing in library

You are (usually) only at university once, so make sure you don't neglect the other aspects of your current situation, as you could regret not making the most of what was available to you at this point in your life.

It is possible to create the perfect balance, making time for work, socialising and relaxing. So keep working towards creating that balance, so that you can truly embrace the student experience.

Dealing With Setbacks To Your Goal Progress

Not everything always goes 100% to plan, and sometimes you're going to have to deal with setbacks of some form. Most importantly, don't be dissuaded from trying to achieve your long-term goals. But in the same breath, don't be afraid to change your short-term goals in the pursuit of these long-term goals. Remember that these goals are just stepping stones that will get you to your end destination, so optimise on the go to keep things moving.

Find What Works For You

Student sat on a wall working on a laptop

If you've created a plan but you don't feel like you're having the most success, don't be afraid to switch it up! If your current plan really isn't working or perhaps isn't fitting into your schedule as a student, it could just be that you respond to a different style of working.

Take a step back and try to identify where it's going wrong, or more importantly, where it's going right. Once you've identified what is working, double down on your success and adapt your plan to fit. Your goals will be ever-evolving, so be flexible and continue to take small steps towards your ultimate goal.

Be Patient

Person checking time on watch

It can sometimes be difficult to stay motivated when you're trying to meet your goals.

Pressure and fatigue can often set in, and slow or halt your progress. However, it's important to remind yourself that you've already had great success to get to where you are in your educational and career journey, it just takes time to achieve great things. So be patient, be kind to yourself, trust the process and stay the course.


Student house interior with teal accents and lighting

Discover Unique Student Houses in Loughborough

Explore our range of luxury student accommodation designed to offer the ultimate living experience.

bottom of page