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Tips on Goal Setting and Planning

Written By: Wendy Huang

Wendy is currently a junior at the University of Washington-Seattle, majoring in Physiology and minoring in Nutritional Sciences.

"I joined Hey Mentor because I want to help high school students navigate the complexity of college. As a first-generation college student, I personally felt overwhelmed in high school because I didn’t know what to expect for college. In the past couple of years, I’ve learned a lot and I want to be a helping hand for other incoming freshman."


Goal setting can be a helpful tool to prevent you from getting overwhelmed, as well as making sure your hard work is being put to good use! College can be quite stressful balancing the multiple classes you have, extracurriculars, and possibly even work. In many instances, students often feel overwhelmed or burnt out because they haven’t found a proper way to balance all these components. Another case is that students find themselves putting in the work, but not getting the results that they want. Therefore, proper goal setting is essential for effectively getting the most out of your time and effort!

Some guidelines for successful goal setting include coming up with goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Specific as in specific to a class, task, or chore; measurable as in you can track your progress or have real-time feedback; attainable as in setting small goals so you will feel less intimidated by it and make sure you can follow through; relevant is in making sure you are honest with yourself and making sure your goal can be achievable with what you have; time-bound as in giving yourself a deadline because the last thing you want to do is to keep pushing things for later. Following these rules in addition to writing them down on paper will make your goals feel more tangible. You are 30% more likely to do something if you write it down!

Personally, throughout grade school and college, I've been using an agenda to write down my goals—even if I have electronic devices. However, if you like using electronic devices there are apps that you can download to document your goals. I write daily goals and put boxes next to them so that I can check them off when they are completed. I find it very helpful during the first week of the quarter to write down all the deadlines for classes in my agenda so I can get a sense of what is to come for the rest of the quarter. I also update my agenda every week with new goals and deadlines to make sure I don’t forget anything. Especially, during weeks leading up to a midterm or finals, it is important to plan ahead in terms of how you want to study so that you won’t feel stressed out and overwhelmed. As for career goals, I would first research what is required into getting into the graduate school/internship/job that you are striving to get. Then I would evaluate which one of the requirements you are able to do in the current situation you are in. In the end, breaking down the big goals into smaller goals is key.

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