Setting Goals for College

Here you are, preparing for the big move: COLLEGE.

And this year is going to be different. You're excited about your coursework, you're jazzed about meeting new people your age (yes, I'm the kind of lame therapist who uses words like "jazzed"), and you're pumped (also, "pumped") about all of the exciting new opportunities and challenges coming your way.

You've got goals! And plans! So how do you actually follow through on them in college?

Have SMART goals: make sure your resolution is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Break goals into steps.

Instead of saying “I’m going to be healthy,” really break it down to what you mean. Do you want to regularly attend the gym? Do you want lose 5 pounds or eat more vegetables and less fast food? And if your goal is to go to the gym more often, figure out if you start with three times a week before committing to every single week.

Or instead of saying, "I'm going to do awesome at college!" recognize what that comes down to, and how you can achieve that. Is doing awesome acing all of your tests, or is it something else?


Get specific: "I'm shooting for at least a 90% in my core classes" vs. just "I'm going to try hard."

Make it measurable: It's a percentage point, or the number of times you try something new, or a specific amount in your savings account.

Make it attainable: Is this something you can actually accomplish? If you've generally done well at school, you're going to have an easier time sustaining that in college as well, vs. totally pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

Be realistic: Pretty self-explanatory! Don't sell yourself short, but recognize the challenges that might get in your way and plan accordingly.

Time sensitive: Set a date by which to reach your goals.

Step up.

You can also build goals on top of one another, so that once you attain one goal, you have a new place to go.

Similar to how the gym is incredibly crowded after the new year, people power hard through the start of their goals, and then really give up on everything by the end of the month. By creating a moving target, you add motivation to keep building on your goals.

When to reach out:

And if you have a hard time meeting your goals, or if you feel worthless because you can’t keep resolutions, talk with a counselor. They can help you dig down into what might be getting in the way. And college counseling can be a huge component of you reaching your goals, too.

Want to hear more about meeting your goals for college? Dealing with college student anxiety? Kelsey is an expert of child and adolescent anxiety, and recognizes how perfectionism can get in the way of everything else - including meeting your goals. Reach out via email at Kelsey works with students for therapy at Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis University, and UMSL.