Skip to main content
Herzing University

Tina Shanahan

Set SMART Goals for Success

Everyone strives for academic and professional achievements, but it’s pretty challenging to make progress if you don’t set practical goals.

Everyone strives for academic and professional achievements, but it’s pretty challenging to make progress if you don’t set practical goals along the way. 

When you set a goal, think about more than the outcome. You need to hold yourself accountable and commit to specific actions in order to get what you want. This process can also help you be more successful in school.

The strongest and most successful goals are SMART goals, which means they are:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R – Relevant

T – Time-bound

Start out with a straightforward objective. For example, passing all of your classes this term. Here’s how you would achieve that objective under the SMART goal criteria. 


Specificity requires breaking down your goal into small steps. Start by reading the syllabus for each class. Ask yourself, what deadlines will I need to meet? How can I stay on top of the readings? How far out do I need to start studying for exams to ensure success? Am I going to have to miss any classes due to work or other obligations? If so, how can I work with my professor to make sure my grade isn’t negatively affected? To pass all of your classes you need to hand in all of your assignments on time, which means you need to set aside time to work.


To hold yourself accountable, make your goals measurable. Is passing the class enough or do you want a specific percentage or letter grade? Plan out what steps need to be taken to then get the grade. For example, each week, if you have to read two chapters, complete one assignment, participate in one discussion, and take a quiz, that means you’ll have 16 readings, 8 assignments, 8 discussions, and 8 quizzes throughout an entire term. Finding the total number allows you to keep track of your progress. For more abstract goals, such as studying enough to pass an exam, set a minimum study time and hold yourself accountable. 


Attainable successful goals need to be manageable for your lifestyle. If you work, have a family and attend school, it probably isn’t realistic to set a goal of studying six hours a day. Look at your schedule and be honest with yourself about how much time you can devote to your classes, then don’t make excuses. 


Always keep your goals as relevant as possible. Passing your classes is a fairly obvious one because it will lead to graduation, which will lead to new career opportunities. 


Time-bound goals help you avoid procrastination. Actions you need to take to accomplish your goals must be scheduled to help you stay on track.  A routine can also prevent you from falling behind. For example, if you’re in an online class, you might plan to complete the course readings by Tuesday of each week, post your initial discussion contribution by Wednesday, have your quiz completed by Saturday, and have your assignment and discussion responses finished by Sunday. 

Setting SMART goals will keep you motivated and on track. Try it for yourself and let me know how it works out. 

Tina Shanahan is Assistant Professor of English at Herzing University.  She is passionate about her work, her community, and lifelong learning.  Follow her on Twitter @TinaTeachesEngl and Facebook

* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Request Information
Ready to get started?

Contact us to request more information

Opt-In to Receive SMS Messages

By selecting this button you agree to receive updates and alerts from Herzing University. Text HELP to 85109 for help, Text STOP to 85109 to end. Msg & Data Rates May Apply. By opting in, I authorize Herzing University to deliver SMS messages and I understand that I am not required to opt in as a condition of enrollment. By leaving this box unchecked you will not be opted in for SMS messages. Click to read Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
Subscribe to Our Blog Newsletter

Get the latest news you need to know, from study hacks to interview tips to career advancement. Have it delivered right to your inbox biweekly.