A Guide to Setting Goals this Academic Year

Last week for arrivals we ran an ‘I will’ competition. Students wrote down their goals for the year on a whiteboard. It was great to see so many ambitious students;  you can check out a few of the different ideas we saw on our Twitter feed.

The competition made us think about the idea of setting goals. With this being the first day of a new academic term, we thought we’d share some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way to help you set, and achieve your goals for this term. Goal setting is a really useful tool beyond university too, so it’s a great practise to get into.

Why Set Goals?

Everyone from professional athletes to top businessmen and women set goals in their careers. It focuses their energy, allows them to measure their progress and helps them become more productive. All of which are really useful things for students too,

finish line

Ain’t no doubt she’s getting to the finish line.

Defining your Goals

Think about what you want from this year. Are you looking to get a first? Do you want to manage your time better? Or do you want a better work/play balance, so you’re not studying all the time?

Think big – have fun – imagine your perfect end to this academic year and how it will look. This is a really enjoyable stage. You can even get creative and draw or cut out pictures of your ideal end of year.

Break Them Down.

This is a really, really important stage. So many of us set ourselves huge targets, but don’t think about the necessary steps we need to take to get there, which can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and a lack of motivation. For example, getting a first is definitely an admirable goal, but you need to follow this up by defining the different ways you will do it. This could mean starting essays nice and early, making a point to talk your ideas through with your lecturer or friends, coming to see ASP with your essay plan, or a host of other steps.

Break every goal down into micro-goals. Define one, small thing that you will do every day to get you where you want to be. Make a list and tick it off. Whenever you achieve a small step that takes you closer to your target, be it reading a chapter of a book or writing a couple of hundred words of a draft, make sure you reward yourself with something you enjoy.

You see, the one problem with setting ourselves huge goals is that they can seem so far off and difficult to achieve that motivation wanes. Motivation comes from seeing measurable progress, so this stage of creating mini targets within your larger goals, and rewarding yourself when you achieve them is a really important one.


A useful tool to help you when setting goals, both large and small, is to use the acronym SMART. So your goals should be:






By approaching your large goals this year in this way, breaking everything down into small, achievable chunks, you can make this year a really successful one!

As well as offering support on your academic work, ASP can help you with areas such as your time management and goal setting. If this is something you struggle with, or would like help setting goals for a successful year, book an appointment with one of our staff.

Our courses are filling up fast too – have a look if there’s one for you here.